If yoga is supposed to be all about connecting mind, body, and spirit, why is it that the first thing I think of at the start of every yoga class is how much I need a pedicure? This not-so-spiritual thought leads logically into looking around at everyone else’s feet, a bad idea in general and especially in yoga class.Even Yoga Journal admits there is a problem — athlete’s foot running rampant through yoga studios. The symptoms are cracked, itchy, peeling and sometimes blistered skin. Mmmmm. Let athlete’s foot run its course, and pretty soon you’ll be the proud owner of even less attractive and harder to treat toenail fungus. Here’s how to avoid this yogi’s nightmare.
1. Skip the communal mat
Next time you forget your mat and the instructor says, “Don’t worry, you can use one of ours,” worry. In fact, panic. While scientists have not proven that unclean yoga mats cause foot fungus, enough podiatrists and dermatologists are making the connection to at least warrant some precaution. At least keep a pair of yoga socks in your bag so you can protect your feet or skip using a mat altogether.
2. Keep your own mat clean
Yoga mats are convenient because they roll up so easily, but that also gives them 5-star resort status for bacteria. This is especially true if you do Bikram where the added moisture from your sweat makes life extra cushy for bacteria. Instead, store your mat unrolled and spray it with antifungal tea tree oil.
Yoga Mat Cleaner:
Try a ready-made version, such as Super Yoga Mat Wash. Or make your own: Combine two cups water and 2 teaspoons tea tree oil (a natural disinfectant) in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray both sides of your mat after each use and drape it over a couple of chairs to dry.
3. Keep your feet clean
By this, I really mean the obvious: wash your feet with warm soapy water, regularly. Wash your socks, too. If you want color, use non-toxic nail polish and remover to reduce your exposure to harsh chemicals like parabens.
4. Beat the fungus
If it’s too late and you already have athlete’s foot and/or toenail fungus, take responsibility and treat it. You’ll be healthier for it and you’ll limit how much it spreads.
Yoga Journal suggests this infusion to treat athlete’s foot:
Bring to a boil 1 tablespoon neem leaves and 1 cup water. Boil the mixture down to 1/4 cup liquid. Next, remove the leaves. When the infusion has cooled, add a few drops of garlic oil and tea tree oil. Use a cotton ball to apply the infusion to the affected area and dry. Taking neem capsules is also an effective way to treat toenail fungus, but you have to be consistent and patient.
Remember, if you’ve got an itch to do yoga, that’s healthy. But getting an itch from yoga is not. Follow these tips to clean up your yoga act for healthier feet.