An Unwanted Yoga Partner: Fungus

Yoga is good for your mind and body, including your skin. Yoga mats, on the other hand, might not be. Using someone else’s yoga mat for an hour could lead to an infection.

Fungus infections are common and appear as athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, and ringworm. Unfortunately, the fungus can survive on surfaces like mats long after the infected person has left. Although most people blame the gym locker room when they develop athlete’s foot, you can catch the fungus from a variety of places anytime you walk barefoot.

Fortunately, even if the fungus comes into contact with your skin, it doesn’t always lead to infection. Dry, cracked skin, or soft, wet skin disrupt your primary defense against the fungus — the densely packed barrier of skin cells, oils and proteins on your healthy skin’s surface. Here are 5 ways to prevent taking a fungus home with you from your next yoga class:

1. Bring your own mat. At least you know what you have.

2. Use an alcohol sanitizer on your hands and feet after your class. Sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol are excellent at drying up the fungus and killing it long before it has a chance to infect you.

3. Clean your yoga mat. Use a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water and scrubbing will act as a fungicide. You can add a few drops of essential oils to the wash so that your neighbor doesn’t think that vinegar smell from your mat is coming from you.

4. Take a shower after class. Be sure to scrub your hands and feet with soap and water. Fungus sitting on the surface of your skin can easily be washed off.

5. Keep your skin healthy. Damaged, cracked, or moist skin is vulnerable skin. Dry your feet well and use antiperspirant on them if you have trouble keeping them dry. Moisturize daily to preserve a protective barrier of healthy skin which will keep infections out.

Photo: Terriko

6 thoughts on “An Unwanted Yoga Partner: Fungus”

  1. I love yoga, but the class I usually go to is right after spin, and the floor is dripping with sweat:( I must have a good immune system because I haven’t picked up anything yet!

  2. I like that you recommended cleaning the mat with vinegar…effective, yet safe.

    I know lots of wrestlers and martial artists also deal with these issues…any mat sports or exercise poses the risk of fungal infection. Fortunately with yoga and pilates you can bring (and clean) your own mat. Mats are so inexpensive to buy, I don’t know why anyone would use the yucky ones at the gym…

  3. Good tips Benabio.
    No. 1 – Own mats

  4. Sounds like owning your own mat and in this case not sharing is the best policy.

  5. Mat for Yoga says:

    Hi Dr. Benabio,

    I always visit your website and I really love the content. Thank you for
    sharing such beneficial articles!

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