Thursday, October 23, 2008

Beware of Germs

“Dust mites. Parasites. Viruses. And virulent bacteria. It's enough to make a yogini sick-unless you take careful steps to guard against germs. In Patanjali's Yoga Sutra,saucha or cleanliness is considered an essential niyama or self-discipline. And across the United States, yoga teachers and studios are honoring this precept as they scrub mats, mop floors, and work to combat the growing number of illnesses and infections that are related to group fitness. ‘Eighty percent of disease is caught by direct or indirect contact-either interacting with a person who carries germs or touching a surface where those organisms live,’ says Philip M. Tierno, Ph.D ., author of The Secret Life of Germs and director of clinical microbiology at New York University Medical Center. ‘Both types of contact are common in yoga centers.’ How could contact with germs affect your students? It could turn them off to yoga-for good. ‘I developed raised, itchy bumps wherever my body touched a yoga mat provided by my gym,’ says Robin Parkinson, a public relations executive in Los Angeles. ‘The rash was so bad that it lasted for four months, required prescription medication-and prompted me to quit yoga a month after I'd started.’ Bacteria can survive for several hours to several days on inanimate surfaces, while viruses can actually linger for weeks. Warm, humid conditions such as those found in hot yoga, vinyasa, or ashtanga-or a restorative class on a summer day-are the perfect breeding ground for these bugs. America's 15.8 million yoga practitioners also play a part. The average person touches his or her face 18 times per hour, passing germs from the nose and mouth to the skin and back again, reports Charles P. Gerba, Ph.D ., a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. An estimated 2 million Americans carry MRSA, which can penetrate the skin through a small cut and become a large pus-filled abscess within an hour. In six percent of cases, community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) poisons the blood and leads to full-blown sepsis. Unlike restaurants (overseen by health departments) and gyms (following guidelines set by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association), yoga studios aren't subject to strict sanitary standards. That's why they've suffered bedbug and water contamination-and why instructors and studio administrators need to clean up their acts, working together to take joint responsibility for maintaining studio cleanliness.”

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