The Ultimate Guide to Yoga Equipment
One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga is the assumption that you have to spend a significant amount of money getting the proper gear beforehand. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, you don't actually need anything to do yoga except your body and an open mind. Many studios supply class attendees with mats and props and as long as you're dressed appropriately for a workout, you probably have what you need in your closet.
But for those of you who decide to bring some level of routine consistency to your practice, it doesn't hurt to gear up so you're always prepared. Many students prefer to own their equipment instead of relying on the items that are handed out at the studio. They enjoy the peace of mind knowing their mats and props are not worn out from high levels of use by other students. Keeping your own gear is also more sanitary than using the stuff that everyone else has been working with (and sweating on) each and every day.
So if you think the time is now to invest in your yoga practice, check out our guide to the basics, essentials, and optional purchases you can make to ensure you have everything you need.
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Beginners who want to put some money into their practice would do well to focus on these basic pieces of equipment to do yoga at home or in a studio.
Can you do yoga on the floor? Yes? Is it an ideal situation? Not exactly.
A yoga mat serves multiple purposes, the most important being that it provides much-needed traction. The extra grip from a yoga mat allows you to hold and transition from one pose to the next without slipping. That's something you need in a room with a hardwood floor, particularly when you begin to sweat. In a class setting, you can think of your yoga mat as your own private island. A 24” x 68” perimeter of personal space that is yours and yours alone to occupy as you strengthen the body and center your mind.
Yoga mats can vary price, ranging from $25 to $100 and up. While you can find a good beginner mat at a cheaper price, if you want to invest in your yoga practice then a yoga mat is the best item to splurge on. As your practice grows and your skills improve you’ll be glad that you purchased a mat that will last longer than a typical entry-level product.
Buying the proper mat for your practice is determined along a set of factors such as material, thickness, length measurements, comfort, traction and durability. Read our Ultimate Guide on Yoga Mats for more information to help you purchase your yoga mat.
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Props are a vital component for practicing yoga. The most well-known and oft-used are blocks. These are typically made of foam, cork, or wood and they too serve a very specific purpose. Blocks help bring much needed support to various areas of the body in a wide range of poses. They can also work as an extension of the hands and arms when a student is unable to reach the floor during certain poses. Above all, they are invaluable for helping aid in your proper alignment.
Straps are another prop that is critical to your practice as it similarly provides extra help with certain poses during class. Much like blocks, a strap can extend the reach of your arms when you aren't flexible enough to hold your feet in a pose. You simply wrap the strap around the foot and hold onto it instead of your foot. This type of prop is also best-suited for connecting the hands at the back when your shoulders don't have enough flexibility for allowing your hands to grasp one another. While it's rather likely you will need a block more often than you would a strap, it's a good idea to have both on-hand when necessary.
These are the items you can probably wait on purchasing until later on down the line. As your practice becomes more serious and you're attending classes on a regular basis, you may find yourself using this equipment more often.
A bolster is ideal for restorative yoga as a means for providing support under the knees and to the back when you want certain poses to be more comfortable to hold. Owning a bolster allows you to do restorative yoga at home, and for any soon-to-be mom yogis, they are a must for prenatal yoga classes at your favorite studio.
You probably have a towel at home that you can roll up or fold to provide you with extra support. However, a specialized yoga towel will be an invaluable tool if you decide to explore hot yoga or bikram yoga. These microfiber towels provide extra grip for your yoga mat during a sweaty yoga session, and are quick-drying so you don’t have to deal with a sweaty, stinky towel at the end of class.
Like towels, you probably won't need to purchase a blanket right away. However, using blankets in your practice can be handy for lifting up the hips in a seated posture or to provide support during a myriad of other poses. If you’re someone who experiences any sort of discomfort in floor poses, a blanket could be the extra cushion you’re looking for.
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For those of you who have transitioned from eager beginners to wily veterans, these are items you may want to consider purchasing but they aren’t essential to your practice. Think of these as accessories that make it easier to continue your practice and take on more advanced courses with greater regularity.
Mat Bag or Mat Sling
So you've purchased your own yoga mat (or perhaps you've bought more than one by this point) and you're finding yourself at the studio three or four days a week. Now’s the time to invest in a good mat bag or mat sling. They're both designed for allowing you to carry your yoga mat around on the go. A bag typically conceals the entire mat or attaches it to another duffle or gym bag. A strap is applied to your rolled up mat and gives you the ability to throw it over your shoulder between classes.
The bag is best for storing the mat and protecting it, the strap is best for a quick and easy method for portability. You can decide for yourself which option would be best for you.
This is another prop that is better-suited to advanced students who have taken their practice to the next level. A wheel helps with a lack of flexibility and allows you to hold stretches deeper and for longer periods of time. Support and stability are also two key reasons why you might employ a yoga wheel in your practice.
While we don’t recommend practicing naked, a yoga session done in inappropriate clothing should also be avoided. You should choose appropriate clothing that allows you to remain comfortable and afford freedom of movement to bend, stretch, crouch, and reach as necessary. For a more detailed explanation of yoga clothing, check out our Ultimate Guide to Yoga Clothing.
There is a balance that you must achieve in your yoga top. You want it to be form-fitting so it doesn't flop over or lift up while you're performing downdog, but it must also be lightweight enough so as not to feel too heavy and constricting. Moisture-wicking materials are preferable for those classes where you sweat a lot, in order to keep your skin dry and prevent chafing.
Yoga pants, yoga shorts, capri-style - you definitely have a wide range of choices at your disposal. In the case of the former, there are many styles and colors from which to choose in a full spectrum of materials that can keep you cool and dry. But for some students, tight-fitting pants are not the ideal option, which leaves other styles like jogger-style capri-style that offer a looser fit.
Of course, you can always wear shorts, which will keep cool in classes with warmer temperatures. Just remain cognizant that you could be exposing yourself if the shorts are too loose and baggy. A pair of spandex shorts underneath can help you avoid that embarrassment.
Wearing a sports bra while practicing yoga is going to be useful as you transition from one pose to the next. You'll be thankful you have it as the class intensifies and the poses become more challenging so you always remain comfortable throughout your course.
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You'll be glad you have these utilitarian items with you between and during classes.
Mat Wash or Wipes
Your mat will get dirty after all those yoga classes. Sweat and grime can build up and start to give the mat a foul and unpleasant odor. But with a mat wash or some portable wipes, you can eliminate all of the bacteria and germs that cause those odors and irritate the skin.
Yoga Gloves and Socks
Yoga gloves and socks are designed to give added traction during class. These items are typically made from lightweight and breathable materials and come equipped with special grip to provide added stability. Don't confuse these with standard versions of gloves and socks as those lack adequate enough grip to do the trick.
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