8.4.2011

Stinky in Hot Yoga? A Dirty Yogini’s Guide to Keeping it Clean

Photo taken by Yoga Peach during class

Let’s face it.  Once in while things get funky in hot yoga.  You probably recall a time you were stuck next to a stenchy yogi or caught a whiff of something foul making it impossible to maintain your steady, rhythmic Ujjayi breath.

In June, for the first time ever, I was THE offensive creature.  Yes, I was the dirty girl that smelled in class and I noticed it the minute practice started.  It was embarrassing!  The odor coming from my mat was as though something rotted on it.   I also made the mistake of showing up wearing full length pants lined with fleece!  I clearly was not thinking that day. Sweat not only was dripped onto my mat but created a puddle around me. Let’s just say it wasn’t the most pleasant practice.  Fortunately there was decent space between me and the yogis on each side of me.  (I still wonder if that was coincidence or not.)  I left class thinking about what makes people “dirty and stinky” in hot yoga and made a list that evening after class.   Some of these are a bit over the top, but if you think about it there is truth to all of them.  If you’re already grossed out I suggest you read no further otherwise I offer you the following pieces of advise.

A Dirty Girl’s Guide to Keeping it Clean in Class

by Yoga Peach

1.  YOUR MAT Clean your mat between practices.  Most people don’t clean their mats as often as they should.  You and the people around you don’t want to smell your stinky mat during practice.  Even if you use a towel over the mat it’s still going to get dirty on the ground.  There are tons of safe, natural antibacterial mat cleaners out there to choose from.  The ones with lemongrass, tea tree, or lavender oils add a refreshing scent to your mat. You can also google several ways to make your own or  simply use vinegar and water.  Keeping your mat clean also includes never using a towel on your mat twice without washing it.  It soaks up your sweat and stinks!  Even worse, leave it sitting in your car inbetween practices means it’s now loaded with germs and bacteria.  Gross!

2.  PROPER ATTIRE There’s a reason you see lots of ladies wearing next to nothing and topless men in hot yoga.   It’s called “hot yoga” and something things get… uh…hot.  While fewer clothes may feel better, you bend and lift your legs in funny places so be careful!   I highly recommend a light breathable material or quick-dry athleticwear.  The clothing made especially for yoga was done so for a reason and I find them most comfortable and breathable.  I made a horrible mistake on Friday and showed up wearing long pants lined with fleece!  What was I thinking?   Add that to my list of why I stunk.

3.  CLEAN CLOTHING Hot yoga clothes are going to stink, period.   Place your clothes in an open air laundry bin until your ready to wash them.  Your clothes are damp and sometimes feel like you just stepped out of a swimming pool.  You need to let them dry out.  Placing them in a laundry bin with a lid is going to create germs and it’s going to be harder to get the aweful smell out.  After a period of time the smell may stick around on your clothes even after you wash them.  Add 4-5 Tablespoons of baking soda or vinegar to your laundry to kill the smell.  Adding a small amount of tea tree oil soap or a quarter cup of ammonia are both supposed to work like magic.

4. FULL BODY WASH Effective body wash products from head to toe are essential!  Find a powerful shampoo and cleanse your scalp thoroughly!  Your head sweats a ton and build up of sweat and oil for some people apparently cause small sores or bumps!   Try a natural tea tree based shampoo(I love it) or a shampoo with salicylic acid or zinc (antifungal/antibacterial.)  If that doesn’t do it visit your pharmacy for suggestions.  I’m always in search of the best body washes and shampoos so let me know if you have recommendations. Exfoliating your body with a loofah is highly recommended to remove dirty dead skin.  Lastly, don’t forget to scrub your feet!  Our feet “fly to the sky” and sometimes close in close contact with someone’s face behind us.   No one wants to smell your musty feet.  Proper hygiene in hot yoga is highly appreciated by fellow yogis!

5.  FARTERS I get it, I guess, although lack of control over my body is not an issue.  Let’s hope I didn’t just jinx myself and blast the worst one ever in my next class.  While I wish there was a way to add “No Farting” right after the “Breathe in and out through your nose” rule in yoga.  I get it that some of you just can’t help it.   You proudly let ‘em rip during the “wind relieving” poses.  Fine, but save the loud long ones or silent but deadly ones for after class please!  Come on people, it’s like someone farting in a sauna!  Impossible to breathe, gross.  The times I’ve noticed I usually have a man near me.   Taking this into consideration and the fact that I’m an unattractive sweaty mess (see photo above) I usually stear clear of practicing next to a man.  Sorry guys, just sayin’.

6.  BE MINDFUL OF WHAT YOU EAT When you sweat, toxins of all glands and organs are released and impurities are flushed out of the body through the skin.  Some foods make you sweat more and certain aromatic foods come right out in your sweat.  Garlic, for example, I promise you will sweat out of your pours if you eat it prior to class. The Sulfur compounds produce a ton of odor.  Onions, hot peppers, and vegetables related to the cabbage family you may also notice release odor.  Spices like curry and cumin will make the class think there’s an Indian restaurant next door. I recently learned that meat eaters have a more intense odor than the non-meat eaters.  I’m not saying to cut out the things you love to eat, especially the healthy stuff.  Just be mindful of how often you eat them and try to eliminate eating too much on hot yoga  days.

7.  WEAR DEODORANT TO CLASS and refrain from perfumes.  Sweating makes your perfume reek.  No one likes “Sweet Sweat Gardenia” scent which is why it’s not available for purchase in stores.

8.  GET YOUR OWN EQUIPMENT Dust mites, bacteria and germs are all brewing on the shared mats, yoga blocks and straps.  Surprisingly this one’s just caught my attention recently and it’s  important.  Make sure you have your own mat.  Athelete’s foot, warts, skin infections, and fungus live in communal yoga mats.  My mat is specially created with an antimicrobial Zenz-in agent that prevents the growth of mold, mildew, and odors.  Next, think about how and where we use yoga props that dozens (or hundreds) of sweaty people have also used.   Blocks assist us when we squeeze them tightly with our sticky thighs during bridge.  We also place our low back directly on the block during assisted shoulder stand, some of us place our sweaty bottoms on blocks for poses such as heroes pose,  and we even press blocks firmly against the bottoms of our feet for an extra length in seated forward bends.  Yuck, yuck, yuck!  And now you want to reuse that same block that some other person covered in sweat used?   The warm room invites tons of germs and viruses to spread through sharing yoga props.  Some people even show up to class when they’re not feeling 100% and they’ve now passed on their illness to the next person through the use of props.  It’s impossible for blocks to be cleaned and washed between classes and I can’t imagine it is regular practice to clean them often.   I’ll provide you with a little “TMI” (too much information) and tell you what made me realize how dirty those yoga blocks really are.  Not too long ago I developed itchy tiny bumps all over my lower back, the sides of my belly, and inside my arm.  They eventually traveled up around my neck!   I was covered in grossness.  It was during a week where I went to several classes taken advantage of blocks to perfect my poses.  I can’t be sure that it was from shared yoga blocks, but I’m nearly convinced that’s what caused the itchy mess.   If purchasing your own equipment seems unreasonable do yourself a favor and carry antibacterial wipes to clean shared equipment.

My sweaty thighs before placing a block between them.  Would you like to borrow my block next?

9)  STAY HOME WHEN YOU’RE SICK The type A personality students attracted to hot yoga may feel guilty for missing a class but rolling in with mat in one hand and a wad of tissues in the other is a mistake.  Thinking you’re “sweating it out” while coughing, sneezing, and nose blowing throughout a 90 minutes practice is disruptive to others and may pass your illness to them.  I assure you that you’ll receive no “yoga compassion” and more than likely receive angry glares from the other students.  A little runny nose or sniffle is no big deal, but be considerate to others if you’re sick.

10)  GO HOME Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after class and avoid touching your face during yoga practice.  Head home after yoga practice if possible and soap right up.  Do I even need to explain further?  You’ve just finished the sweatiest workout ever and possibly exposed yourself to germs.  I’m sure you don’t want that lingering on your body.   Can you really stand the authentic smell of yourself anyhow after hot yoga?   I assure you it’s not glamorous.  Don’t put others in dangerous either.  If you must eat right after class pack a snack.  Grocery shop straight from class is a no-no.   I promise someone will wheel their cart past you so incredibly quick and you’ll easily be able recognize the clear “ewwww you stink!” look on their face.  (It’s possible I know this from experience.)

Fellow yogis, this is valuable advise worth taking!  Don’t be caught as the dirty one in class!   For those of you who don’t practice I hope I haven’t scared you off from trying.  Hot yoga is an amazing and powerful experience.  Just follow my advise and you’re good to go.  Keep it real and keep it clean.  Happy hot yoga everyone!

You may follow me on Yoga Peach Facebook

 

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5 comments :

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  • Eimear Paine (sorry)

    The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get. Jim Rohn

  • Orly

    You’re so funny with the farters part! I’m pretty new to hot yoga (3 months) and only this week I came across a farter. Of course it was a guy who set right next to me, terrible experience.

    I have a question, what do you do with the dirty yoga wear when on the go? Sometimes I go to the morning class, take a shower at the studio and have to leave to the University with the dirty clothes in a plastic bag until I get home a few hours later :( Is it better to wash them with clean water before throwing them in the bag?

    • yogapeach

      Haha Orly! Sorry you had the experience. I usually put my hot yoga clothes in a mesh bag, the ones some yoga mat towels come in, and put them in a separate pocket of my yoga/gym backpack.

  • Mary Duprey

    Great write up Keli – thanks. I’ll share that on our FB page if you don’t mind.

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