Yoga equipment: what do you actually need?

When people first come to class I encourage them to borrow a mat until they are sure yoga is for them, as we could all do with avoiding spending money unnecessarily, AND ending up with yet more equipment that we don’t need use (I currently have in my house gathering dust: rock climbing shoes, a set of wrist and ankle weights, a skipping rope and a bicycle…..)

However, if you are coming to class now on a regular basis, and hopefully having a little practice at home now and again, it is probably time that you invested in a good yoga mat of your very own.

So what is a good mat?

  1. it must have good grip so it doesn’t slip on the floor, and you don’t slip around on it when you are working
  2. it must be able to go through the wash in a normal washing machine
  3. it should be free of harmful chemicals
  4. it should be thick enough to give adequate padding but thin enough that it does not hamper your balance

Some mats used for other exercise systems like Pilates don’t work for yoga as they have no grip. If you have a mat that can’t be washed, it will eventually develop ‘aromas’: the hall floors where we practice are not always as clean as I would like, you are on them in barefeet, and at times getting rather hot and sweaty. For hygiene reasons it is sensible to have a mat that only YOUR bare feet touch, that you can wash when you need to.
When you have your own mat, leave it out at home on the floor somewhere between classes, to maximise the chances that you might, just MIGHT step onto it and have a bit a of a wiggle on your own. How often you need to wash it depends on how often you use it. I wash my own mat once a month (sometimes it is prompted by chataranga when my nose is hovering an inch from the mat….) it does need to dry naturally away from direct heat, so a blowy or sunny day is perfect.

So is there any other kit you need? Not really as I always have with me a set of blocks, bricks and straps and a few spare blankets. But if you are practicing at home it might be worth investing in the props that you find yourself using in class for example

  • a block
  • a brick
  • a belt (extra long if you are tall)
  • a blanket
  • an eye pillow
  • and then probably a kit bag to lug it all around in!

So what kit do I have….well…quite a lot! I do restorative yoga and also have a knee injury from an old rock climbing acccident, and a grumpy neck left over from my nursing days (thankfully I have no injuries from doing yoga!) When I have to pack my yoga kit up I am usually going for a whole day of study (sometimes more) to aid by development as a teacher, so I do tend to carry an awful lot of kit!

So here is Michelle’s yoga kit

…..I know…it’s a lot…bit of an occupational hazard of the job I suppose! (Note to self: stop looking at online yoga shops…)

So starting from the blue yoga mat this is what it all is…

  • Warrior Plus II mat, 6mm thick free of harmful chemicals and machine washable
  • lavender eye pillow in red to help me relax in savasana
  • pair of wooly socks my Mum knitted for me for Christmas that I like to wear in savasana
  • Just above that is my large yoga kit bag
  • and inside the kit bag one of my cotton bolsters (I have six…) for restorative yoga and savasana (under knees in relaxation is lovely)
  • water bottle so I stay hydrated as I am working
  • heavy cotton blanket – I find the weight of it on my body aids relaxation
  • non-slip sweat towel – I am blessed with hands and feet that “glow” constantly. No yoga mat alone can cope….
  • a flannel, which I fold into a triangle then roll up to put behind my injured knee if I need to bend my knee deeply
  • two washing up sponges from the supermarket – great portable padding under my knees (and washable)
  • extra long yoga belt to help me reach my feet in some standing balances, and to create binds
  • notebook and pen – to jot notes down so my memory does not fail me!
  • a yoga block – to sit on, to stand on, to keep my feet apart in sethu bandhasana, all sorts of things
  • a half block – for when a full block is too high, softer than a full block and useful for under the knees
  • a sandbag – which I heat up on the radiator and use in my restorative work and savasana (across my belly is my favourite)
  • a lavender neck wrap – which I heat up and wrap around my neck when it is grumpy in savasana
  • a brick – to help with reaching fingertips to floor in such poses as parivrtta trikonasana, under sacrum in bridge etc
  • packet of tissues – so I can clear my nasal passages before doing breath work such as khapalbhati and to blot away my tears when emotions bubble through to the surface, its rare for me not to shed a few tears during my practice

Am I suggesting you need all this clobber? Not at all, but it might give you food for thought as to what might make your yoga kit work better for you.

I have seen my students using props very inventively, and many of my tips and tricks I learn from them. The washing up sponges under the knees is an idea I picked up from my student John, and it has now been taken to the next level by Sree, who, with my encouragement, wears her washing up sponges INSIDE her yoga leggings so they are always there when her sensitive knees are placed on the floor. If you have a tip or trick please share by leaving a comment after this post.

But the prize for most inventive use of household object used as a yoga prop goes to…???

Sue K who uses her flip flops as padding under her knees. Love it!

The bottom line is, you can practice yoga with absolutely no props at all, not even a mat, but if you can find ways to make your practice more comfortable, why not?



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