I never really gave it a proper thought but then when I was doing my yoga teacher training I realised that my yoga mat was like my second home, the comfortable place where I spent most of my time. During that time, I've practiced yoga once a day, sometimes even twice, studied on it, ate on it (my yellow curry marks are proof of it), I cried on it when doing deep heart opening asanas, I slept on it and I used it out in my garden, in the park, at a yoga flash mob and it also travelled with me on many occasions. It was constantly rolled out in my bedroom by the window and waiting for me to step onto it. Only then I felt what a treasure and precious thing my yoga mat was to me and that I loved it.
I learnt that before using a newly bought yoga mat, you should actually wash it to make it less slippery and ready for a yoga practice. Most yoga mats are machine washable, so you can throw them in a cycle by itself with a tad of mild detergent using cold water. Important: remove the yoga mat before the washing machine starts the spin cycle! Then rinse off the soap completely in the bathtub with room temperature water after washing. It's always surprising me just how much dirt comes off my mat.
If you cannot put your yoga mat into the machine or simply is not machine washable, you can roll it out in your bathtub and rub it with a washcloth and an eco-friendly, biodegradable soap. Then thoroughly rinse until the water runs completely clear.
A great way to dry your mat: place your wet and well rinsed mat onto a large towel and roll both together. Then stand onto the mat and by doing so, all excessive water will be squeezed out. Unroll the mat and hang it to air dry. Always allow plenty of to time to dry completely – never use a damp mat for your practice. Of course you can also use a special spray to clean your yoga mat however, having it properly washed every now and then is still recommendable.
As a hot yoga practitioner you want to clean and especially disinfect your mat ideally straight after class. A tea tree oil solution is a good way to get rid of all bacteria and prepare your mat for the next round of sweat.
And should your mat show some dirty, stubborn spots, use lemon juice and baking soda diluted in water to rub out the stains.
If you take care of yourself by eating healthy, using natural products for your body, then you should do the same with your yoga mat. Only use mild and gentle, eco-friendly and beautiful products to clean it. Think of all the moments when your face, your cheeks, your chin or your forehead are touching the yoga mat. Your whole body is in constant contact with the mat so you want to have it clean and treated with just the right products.
Another way that helps keeping your yoga mat clean is by folding it in half before you roll it up. Actually leave a small gap as the inner portion of the rolled mat will creep
forward during the rolling to meet the bottom end. Having your mat rolled up this way, prevents the dirt from the floor from contacting the side you use for poses. When unrolling, keep the same side down.
Having a clean mat makes a yoga practice all the more inviting and it's a ritual that fits well into your yogic routine.
Enjoy taking care of your beloved yoga mat, the same way you take care of your body which is your temple and immerse into your practice every day anew.