Your yoga mat is a place where a lot happens. It is where you explore and discover more about yourself. Among the physical exploration within your body, growth, becoming more aware of your emotions, awakenings, and connection within yourself and to the universe. You can find solace, discipline, tensions, peace, and all that happens within the practice of yoga. Right there on your mat. And, this place also collects your blood, sweat, and tears (both metaphorically and literally). Which means, some things like bacteria and funguses that you likely don’t want on your mat can end up collecting. So, simply taking at least a minute after each practice to freshen up your mat will honor the integrity of your mat, your practice, and your wellness.
Why Clean Your Mat?
We live in a world full of bacteria, viruses, microbes, and whatever it may be that you wouldn’t consider “clean,” which isn’t always a bad thing. However, when it comes to our mat where we are sweating, putting our body on, and maybe sharing – it is important to keep it cleaned. Of the niyamas, written in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the first of the five niymas is Saucha. This translates to purity and cleanliness. This refrs to all aspects of purity like purity of mind and body, clean eating, clean space, and so you can take that your place of practice and yoga mat should also be a part of saucha. Saucha, though, is more than just cleaning. It goes deeper to mean the cleansing your being to have your true-self shine greater. This does mean that the spaces around us should be clean as well, as this promotes the clearing of your mind and body. Think of it like this: inside of your body there is a lot of dust, so much that it is blocking your internal light of your being. The only way to clear that dust is by searching and connecting deeper within, using asana and pranayama to move things around, and meditating on your inner light becoming brighter and clearing the dust and the junk that doesn’t serve you. Like in a dusty room, it is hard to breathe, feel at peace and clear if the dust hinders each breath and you cannot move the way you want to. You first need to clear it out. So, like your yoga mat, it is important to keep your sacred space of practice pure so you can better explore the purification of your inner being through yoga.
When there is both inner and outer cleanliness, it approaches godliness. Mahatma Gandhi
You want the space of your yoga practice to be pure and free of unnecessary junk that can corrupt your mind, body, and practice. This will also be better for your health and wellness from a holistic standpoint, especially since your practice will benefit from a clean space. And, it is respectful to those that practice around in a class as well so that there isn’t an odor building up from a dirty mat and you aren’t carrying around something that you wouldn’t want someone else around you carrying either.
So, to keep those things from getting out of hand, there are several options for cleaning and refreshing your yoga mat.
1. Yoga Mat Cleaner
You can buy a cleaner that is made specifically for yoga mats, a non-toxic cleaner that won’t be too harsh on your mat either is a great option. The most common cleaners that you can find come in sprays and wipes.
Here are some popular options:
— Dragonfly Yoga Mat Wipes
— Hugger Mugger PureMat Yoga Wash
— JoSha Mat Wipes
— Manduka Mat Wash Spray
2. Homemade Spray Cleanser
If going out and buying a cleanser for your mat isn’t calling your name, then you can make your own! This way you do know exactly what is in there. You can also make the scent that you prefer, so it is uniquely yours. Here is a recipe for a homemade mat refreshing spray:
This recipe is made with tea tree oil and with hazel (if decided to include) as the main cleansers. They are natural disinfectants and with the added lemon oil or other essential oil, it is also quite refreshing. This recipe is easily adaptable to take out or include what you like. Use this after each practice; just a couple sprays on your mat and a wipe down will keep your mat feeling fresh and clean.
Homemade, Non-Toxic Mat Cleaner:
— Small spray bottle
— 2-3 drops of tea tree essential oil
— 1 drop of lemon oil (optional)
— 1 drop of lavender essential oil or any other oil that you prefer (optional) (lavender or orange work well)
— 1 tsp witch hazel (optional)
— Distilled water to fill bottle ¾ of the way (about 4 ounces)
(You can find most of these ingredients at a local whole foods or specialty grocery store. Even some of the bigger consumer stores carry essential oils. Just make sure you are buying high-grade oil. Some well-known and high-grade oils are DoTerra and NowFoods essential oils.)
3. Soap and Water
A classic remedy for cleaning up, you can use a simple soap and warm water to clean your yoga mat. I would recommend a soap that doesn’t have much added to it, even one that you would comfortable using on your face. Using warm water, soap, and a washcloth – gently wipe down your mat a few times over each spot. Be careful not to wipe to hard or vigorously so that you don’t begin to break down your mat. Even if you use a mat cleaner or spray after each time that you practice, sing soap and water once or twice a month is helpful for going deeper in the cleansing. Keeping your mat clean will lengthen the life of your mat, too!
4. Spray Down and Hang Dry
If you practice often in a heated room or a vigorous practice where you sweat a lot, it is a good idea to at least spray down and wipe your mat after each practice (even if you use a towel). Another option is when you get home is to spray down your mat with a hose to really get in there and spray off the sweat. Then, spraying with a cleansing spray. Hanging your mat up to dry is important to do when it gets very wet, if you just roll it back up then it won’t fully dry.
All of the options will help you keep your mat clean. Which is the best? It depends on what you prefer. Either way, however, it is important to stick with a non-toxic way of cleaning. That is what’s best. Whether it is with a simple wipe, spray, or something that you made as long as it has ingredients that are safe then you should be good to go. What I mean by non-toxic and safe is that it should be free of toxic chemicals that can be found in common cleaning substances. Such as in this list made by Jessie Sholl:
— Perchloroethylene (“PERC”)
— Quarternary Ammonium Compounds (“QUATS”)
— Soudium Hydroxide
This is why it is very important to not use common household cleaners on your yoga mat! Unless you’ve also checked that it is completely safe and non-toxic as well, it could have toxic substances that you don’t want on your yoga mat or getting on your body. Using a yoga mat specific cleaner or home-made cleaner will not tear your mat apart or your body if you get on it too.
Some Things To Note
I mentioned the importance of regular cleaning after each practice if there is a lot of sweat involved. But, If you don’t often get your mat very sweaty, still take the time to clean it regularly (at least every couple weeks). Keeping your mat clean and refreshed will lengthen the life of your mat, keep your place of practice fresh, and benefit your overall health and wellness by reducing the spread and accumulation of harmful bacteria. When we practice we are rubbing our bodies all over the mat. Our faces too, if you get into child’s pose and get your forehead on the mat or laying down with your cheek on the mat, savasana has our backs on the mat, and really there is a lot of body to mat contact during a practice. You wouldn’t want to be laying in a pool of old dead skin cells, bacteria, and sweat at your next practice – so make the point to take a minute and clean your mat! Keeping your mat clean with a few spritzes of your cleaner after each practice will keep the integrity and durability of your mat. And refresh it for your next practice. Having a mat that is clean and ready will make each practice clearer for the space of going inward.
So, if you haven’t cleaned your mat today and you’ve already practiced, or you plan to, add in your time to clean your mat as well. It will make a difference in your practice, mat life, purity, and being.