Beginners Guide: Essential Yoga Equipment
There is an utterly boggling array of different Yoga gear out there; a billion different kinds of mats, blocks, bricks, half bricks, straps, chairs. Honestly, it is SO hard to know what you need and what you don't when you're new to Yoga.
I thought it would be a great thing to share my favourite essential bits and pieces that make a difference to my practice and give a bit of an overview of the different kinds of equipment out there on the market.
Probably the most fundamental (and expensive) piece of equipment in Yoga; your mat is your best friend as a Yogi. It cushions your joints, provides grip, and helps you get the most out of your practice.
But buying the wrong one can be a very expensive mistake. With mats costing anything from £5 in Tesco (I would avoid these, they are rubbish...) up to over £100, it is a real investment. Bonus is, there is going to be something at every price point.
The main available types are as follows;
That's not an exhaustive list by any means; there's literally hundreds of different mats on the market which makes buying the right one really tough.
My Favourite Mats
For my own classes, I use Yogamatters Sticky Yoga Mats in Slate Grey. I really like these for my students for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they're a good thickness which is good for anyone with sore backs or knees. Secondly, the level of grip provided is decent for a beginner. They retail at £17 each, which really is not expensive if you're getting into a home practice compared to the top end of the market.
For my personal practice, my absolute favourite best Yoga purchase ever is the Yogi Bare Paws natural rubber mat. This mat honestly transformed my practice. The grip is insane, even when you are dripping and I feel so safe on it; even practicing Headstands and arm balances.
Now, it is expensive at nearly £53... BUT this is as good (if not better) than a Liforme Mat which is £100. Yogi Bare are such a lovely company, with great values in terms of giving back and sustainability you can't help but want to buy from them.
I also have a travel yoga mat which is a Manduka eKo Superlite. I really like this because it is foldable, it is natural rubber and is super grippy too. I took this on my honeymoon to Indonesia and it was an excellent mat to travel with. I was really keen on getting a foldable mat because sometimes you don't have an option to roll if you're travelling hand luggage only or on the train with a small case to make sure I can take it wherever I am going.
The only downside is the thickness (1mm) so it isn't as supportive as my Yogi Bare... but it weighs less than half as much! It's really great to chuck over the top of a studio mat too if you don't want to lug a great big mat around with you.
I got this for my birthday and it was around £40; so it's not a cheap mat but for the convienience, grip and quality I think it is a total cracker.
Props: The essentials
Again, there are lots of different kinds out there; but my essential kit would be;
2 Yoga Bricks
2 Yoga Blocks
1 Yoga Strap
Yogamatters stock a really good range in a variety of materials. Personally, I use Foam blocks because I find them a good firmness and they don't deteriorate or get gross and sweaty. I feel like Cork is twice the price and doesn't really do the job any better.
I like the D Ring kind of straps because they are less fiddly for guys with big hands to use in comparison to the square buckle variety - again, D Ring is slightly cheaper too! They're really versatile and help a lot if you can't quite reach your toes in Seated Forward Fold, or you can't bind in Bound Sage.
In my own practice, the strap is my most used prop. I use this for opening hips, backbending, lashing my arms together if I'm practicing Chaturanga... there's really no end to how useful I find a strap as a tool. I don't really use my blocks, if I do need something I normally reach for my bricks. I find the bricks handy because my arms are about 1 inch shorter than they should be for my torso length so the extra depth is helpful to me. As with anything, every body is totally different so I would recommend getting at least one of each block/brick and seeing what you gravitate towards.
A bolster is also a really lovely piece of equipment if you want to practice Pigeon for an extended time. I rarely use bolsters in my own practice because I'm very open across my body with Hypermobility Syndrome, so the last thing I need is to open up more. For someone with tight hips, hamstrings, back they really are a godsend. Yogipod do some really lovely ones and they are ethically sourced by a local Yoga Teacher called Georgie. Otherwise, Yogamatters have a good selection.
A lot of the other pieces of equipment aren't really essential unless you're practicing a specific type of yoga like Iyengar or have a specific issue, like sitting on the floor.
Those are my favourite bits and pieces of Yoga equipment; what are yours?