By Carol Miller. Even though this was written by Carol, in the past, for people attending Tim Miller’s and Confluence, these issues are very well and live at YiY. So please read on and make the appropriate moves, whether that includes washing your mat more, yourself, clothes and sometimes replacing good old “ashtanga” clothes with new ones, since they developed that never disapearing funk.
The Ashtanga Yoga Hygiene Manifesto
The first of the five niyamas in Patanjai’s yoga sutras is “saucha,” which can be translated as cleanliness. For our purposes we will assume Patanjali is referring to bodily cleanliness, which may be the first step to more subtle and enlightened forms of cleanliness or purity. This is a very important observance for both students and teachers of ashtanga yoga. Please be considerate of your teacher and fellow students by bathing or showering prior to yoga class. I have been in the uncomfortable position of delivering this message to students face to face and it’s not fun for me and is usually embarrassing for the person on the receiving end. So I am going to spell out the necessary procedure here in excruciating detail. Most people already know how to keep themselves clean and smelling nice, but it only takes one odiferous yogi to send fellow seekers on the path to samadhi running to the other end of the room. When the room is hot and crowded and there is nowhere to escape the smell of B.O., I have seen students actually pick up their mats and leave. There was a time when I gave the hygiene talk in person as part of our teacher training. Luckily, I now have too many other responsibilities to offer the live version, but this section is required reading for each of our teacher trainees. Adherence to these rules is mandatory in order to receive your certificate of completion.
1. WATER-Bathe or shower before class. Besides making you smell good it has the added benefit of warming up your stiff muscles before yoga. In India bathing is an important ritual and even the poorest people who live in a cardboard box manage to take a bucket bath every day before they perform puja. In India I’m pretty sure even people who live in cardboard boxes perform puja.
2. SOAP-Use soap in your armpits and EVERYWHERE else. Bacteria grows in damp places. This is a scientific fact and the really bad smell is a product of the bacteria breaking down protein into really bad smelling acids. General consensus should determine what is bad smelling. There is always one feral hippie or French person who believes their natural odor is “unique”. Too many hallucinogens or smoking cigarettes from birth will have dulled their sense of smell so their vote does not count. Many people believe that because they have a clean diet they don’t need to use soap or deodorant. You can have the cleanest diet in the world and still have B.O. If one sweats and fails to wash their armpits thoroughly with soap, EVERYONE including Vegetarians, Vegans, Raw Food Enthusiasts and Breatharians, has the potential for horrifyingly offensive body odor.
3. DEODORANT-Apply a natural deodorant to your armpits after washing them thoroughly with soap and water. Alvera makes a good one with coriander which is a natural anti-bacterial. There are also crystal salt deodorants which are effective. I am not suggesting that anyone use an antiperspirant with aluminum clorohydrate. That stuff is poison and causes Alzheimer’s disease. We are not “anti” perspiration. Perspiring is a wonderful and healthy human function and we encourage it wholeheartedly as long as said perspiration does not stink.
4. CLOTHING-If you abide by all these rules and you still find that people get up and move when you set down your mat, or if after class you get a polite wave rather than a warm embrace, then you need to wash your yoga clothes with laundry soap and dry them in a clothes dryer. Some people, mostly women, are concerned about preserving the elasticity of their expensive Lululemon or Hardtail yoga clothes, so they wash them by hand in cold water and hang them up to dry. This could mean that your clothing is home to a plethora of foul smelling bacteria which light laundering is not able to kill. Consideration of your fellow humans in close proximity is more important than the longevity of your yoga clothing. Shopping at Lululemon can be an exhilarating, life affirming experience. Especially if you read the free advice they put on their shopping bags. Don’t try to make your clothes last forever. Wash them well and regularly. People will silently thank you for it and your social life may improve.
5. YOGA MAT-Still not making friends in yoga class? Maybe it’s your yoga mat. If you perspire profusely, your mat may be harboring millions of smelly little microbes. You can put a Manduka mat in the washer (without soap) and then put it in the sun to dry. Sometimes just putting the mat out in the sun after practice will take care of the smell. There are sprays and wipes which are designed specifically to sanitize yoga mats. Investing in a Mysore rug or one of those towels with the little rubber dots on it is a good way to sop up the sweat before it permeates your sticky mat. The rugs and towels can be washed with soap and hot water in the washing machine and dried in the dryer.
Well, I think that pretty much covers it. Some people have a hard time with strong perfume in yoga class. I haven’t noticed many people who douse themselves in Chanel No. 5 before yoga class so I’ll save that rant for another time.