by Steph Creaturo
There used to be two kinds of yoga mats: blue and purple. They were thin and nubby and most likely cut off of one big roll at your local yoga studio.
Now, when we go to shop for a yoga mat, there’s a dizzying array of textures, colors, levels of cushioning, patterns – you can even plug your iPhone into one with a built-in speaker!
No matter if you say Manduka and I say Jade, you’ve got to clean your yoga mat on a regular basis. Old-school yogic texts talk about the principle of saucha, or cleanliness, of the inner and outer body when practicing. Add good old-fashioned common sense to the mix about sweating and germs and things like that, then you have solid to good encouragement to add your yoga mat to your loving-kindness practice and clean it.
Cleaning your mat may also help to de-slip it. I have no official evidence for this, but observation shows that the more recent generations of eco-friendly mats may be more slippy than old-school mats. With the price of mats these days, it’s wise to read and follow the manufacturers instructions, as not all mats are created equal.
In addition, here are a few tips and tricks to keep your mat in circulation for years:
1. Do not use soap. I know others say differently, but I say: think about it. It’s like practicing on ice skates. Instead, put a tablespoon of white vinegar, which has great antibacterial properties, in the rinse compartment if your washer.
Some mats can go in the dryer with towels. I prefer let mine to air-dry. Roll it in a towel to squeeze out the extra moisture and then hang somewhere with a towel under it to catch the dripping moisture. Flip it to make sure it’s drying at an even rate.
2. If you have a top-loading washing machine, grab your quarters and head to the laundromat. Wash in a front loader only!
3. Clean your mat after every practice. Really. At Mala, we have mat cleaning spray available to use and a rag. A light spray and then scrub using those triceps like you do in chaturanga. A light touch doesn’t work here.
4. Make your own mat spray. Water, a spray bottle and essential oils are all you need for a safe, effective mat cleaner. Some essential oil choices – once again, chosen for their antibacterial and/or germ-fighting properties – are lavender, tea tree, rosemary or lemon in distilled or boiled water. I use a ratio of 25 – 40 drops of essential oil to each cup of water.
Do a heavy-duty clean once a week. Think of it as your offering to the most used, and perhaps least thought about, prop you own.