Monday, June 1, 2020

Essential Yoga Equipment



For anyone starting a yoga practice, it's important to have a clear understanding of what's actually needed!

Though you can go through a practice without any of the pieces we'll talk about here, I will say that having them handy makes for a much more pleasurable experience. Some of them, depending on what you get, can be quite pricy so if you don't have these now - don't worry! As I talk about each prop I'll also give you an idea of something you have at home now that you can use in place of it.

If you're a beginner-beginner, then Namaste and welcome! Yoga is truly a remarkable practice and I hope that it will open doors for you that you didn't even know existed. If you're feeling overwhelmed and not really sure where to start then I recommend taking a look at this post: Types Of Yoga And Which May Be Best For You. This will begin to introduce you to the different styles of yoga and guide you toward something beginner-friendly.

For those of you who already have a practice and are just looking to enhance it - then keep reading because these props will take your practice to the next level! 

At a glance, the props you'll need for a well-suited yoga practice are:

  • Yoga Mat
  • Yoga Blocks
  • Blankets
  • Bolsters
  • Yoga Strap
  • Yoga Wheel

Yoga Mat



If you only get one prop, then a yoga mat should be the first. A lot of yoga involves being on the floor, on hands and knees, on your back, on your belly, etc, so having a mat to lay down on just makes things a bit nicer. Mats do vary incredibly so doing a little research on which one may be best for you and the type of practice you'll be doing is well worth the effort. Some mats are thinner, some mats are thicker, some are stretchier some are stiffer, some are longer and some are travel size - there really are so many to choose from. 

They come in different materials like some really great ones out there that are non-slip and have sleek designs on them to help with proper hand/foot placement for alignment purposes. You can find yoga mats pretty much anywhere, some cheaper ones can be found in department stores like Wal-Mart or Target, and Amazon has a nice variety also. I recommend though, especially if you're going to be using your mat quite a bit, to invest in a mat that may be a bit more pricy so that it'll give you a bit longer life. 

If buying props is not in your budget, there's no problem. You can do yoga without a yoga mat - I do this sometimes if I'm doing outdoor yoga. The feel of the Earth directly beneath your hands and feet really helps enhance the grounding feelings. If you feel more comfortable having something under you while doing yoga, then you can put out a towel as well. I would be careful, though, and would be vigilant about making sure it doesn't slide around too much on the floor. 

Extra: If you do decide to invest in a yoga mat, an additional piece I'd recommend getting is a yoga-mat-bag also - That is if your yoga mat doesn't already come with one. It makes transporting your yoga mat easier if you decide to go to some in-studio classes as well. 

Yoga Blocks



I love using yoga blocks in my daily practice! Yoga blocks can be super helpful, especially for beginner yogis who are working at gaining some flexibility and mobility in their bodies. They help to get the body into proper alignment which is key when doing any asana so that the energy can freely flow up and down the spine and throughout the body. Even for seasoned yogis, adding some blocks to the practice can help in creating space where they may need it. There is no perfection to yoga, and you'll never reach a point where you can say you're done. There's always room to grow and improve an asana and blocks are a great way to do that. 

In standing asanas that require you to fold down toward the ground, if you're unable to reach, yoga blocks help to raise the Earth to meet you. You can maintain alignment and feel the Earth beneath you. They can serve as a seat when in seated postures like Sukhasna to help elevate the hips a bit and they make great supports under the spine or knees. 

If you do not have yoga blocks, then a stuffed shoe box which provides a solid structure can be used in place. The main thing is alignment and that's what blocks help most with so using a shoebox to help lengthen the spine or open the chest will provide the extra benefit rather than slouching in the pose and not getting any benefit at all.

Blankets


If you're just not feeling like a power yoga vinyasa class is for you today, then slide into a nice restorative class and wrap up in a cozy blanket. There is just something inherently comforting about being wrapped up in a blanket - protection, warmth, care. If you're feeling like you're needing a little more of one of these things in your life then grab that blanket and relax down into Savasana for a sweet, meditative moment. 

Blankets can offer more than just that, though. Roll it up and slide it under the hips for a little extra support in seated poses or help protect neck and shoulders in Salamba Sarvangasana - Shoulder Stand. They also offer great support in one-legged pigeon poses to keep the hip lifted instead of rolling over onto it.

Blankets are a very versatile yoga prop and there are some nice yogi-like blankets on the market but if you're just getting started in your home yoga practice then buying one now isn't essential. Use the blankets that you already have around the house and you'll be just fine!

Bolsters



Bolsters are another great tool to have in your yoga practice, and again, I use these all of the time! Like using the blocks, they can help with alignment but also with finding comfort and relaxation. They can be used as a comfortable seat in for mediation or tucked under the knees in Savasana for aiding the body to let go and release down into the Earth. They can often be used to open up space in a variety of different asana poses. Use it lying down behind your heart space to open up your chest, or place it under your head in a seated forward fold and stay here for a few minutes. 

If you do not have any bolsters, using pillows are a fantastic replacement! Grab the pillows from your bed, grab any couch pillows, stored guest pillows you may have - grab whatever you'd feel comfortable sitting on. Then, feel free to play around and find what's comfortable. Are you finding any particular asana a bit uncomfortable? - Keep in mind there should be some degree of discomfort (but of course no pain) as your body grows, lengthens, and gains more flexibility. If you can't get your head down to your knees in a seated forward fold, try adding in a stack of pillows and see how easy it is to relax. 

Yoga Strap


You may have noticed a recurring theme here, but alignment goes hand-in-hand with yoga practice. In fact, the yoga practice is designed to help alignment, and often times people will take this alignment practice off the mat into their day to day lives improving their posture when seated or standing. Yoga straps help with alignment and most importantly stretching. It's the constant stretching of different muscle groups that helps yogis gain flexibility, but if you're starting off as a beginner you may not be very flexible at all. And that's perfectly okay! Everyone has to start somewhere and yoga straps help the body reach deeper, more comfortable stretches. 

Yoga straps have a nice loop at the end which can be used to wrap around and hold onto different limbs. They can serve as extensions of your arms if you're not able to reach certain parts of your body while stretching. Take cow arms, for example, (one arm reaching up and folding down behind your back, while the other arm reaches down and folding up to join together behind you). This is an intense stretch and if your hands do not touch or meet behind you then using a strap between your hands helps to open up your shoulders and allows you to stretch comfortably without having to push too hard.

Yoga straps are nice, but you likely have several items in your house now that you can use - so buying one right off the bat is not really necessary. You can use scarves, long socks, neckties, smaller towels, even a rolled-up t-shirt. There are really many things that could serve as a yoga strap so implementing this into your yoga practice is easy and I recommend doing so!

Yoga Wheel


The last prop I'll talk about today is actually one I've not ever personally used, but many yogis do. There are several practices out there flowing completely through different poses using a yoga wheel, so it makes sense to talk about it here. As a beginner yogi, though, I wouldn't recommend going out and getting one of these right away. Using some of the props listed above will get you well on your way, but again, since I see it used so frequently I'll mention it. 

Yoga wheels are really great for helping to open many different parts of the body but mostly I see it used to open the chest and work on smaller backbends. You can rest your hands on the wheel while in extended child's pose to open the chest, or rest it underneath your spine as you recline back from a seated meditation pose.

Conclusion


As you can see, there are many different props that can be used to provide a beneficial yoga practice. The main focus is finding comfort and alignment while you maintain the breath in your asana practice. For beginners, these props can be very helpful as you begin to learn to listen to your body and recognize it's limitations and acknowledge what feels good and what is pushing your body too far. I've listed several prop alternatives that you can find right at home if you wanted to implement these into your practice without spending the money.

Yoga is an investment into your body and your health, so if you're able, I'd recommend financially investing in yourself as well and grabbing a few of the different props listed above. Yoga can be and is for everybody. There is no prerequisite and it is open to any body type. I hope you'll begin your yoga journey and work to add some of these to your practice! Let me know in the comments below what your favorite prop to use is!

Take Care, My Friends - Namaste

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