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Yoga Equipment Guide for Beginners: What's Essential and What's Optional

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Updated June 21, 2014

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Essential:

Clothing: Comfortable, breathable clothes are recommended for yoga. You probably want to wear a shirt that is a little bit form-fitting, since in many yoga poses, your head comes below your hips and your shirt can slide down. Any exercise pants or shorts will do, although it’s best not to have super slick lycra-type pants since this may cause you to slip in some poses.

Shoes: Yoga is most often done barefoot, which is great news for those of us tired of packing a bulky pair of athletic shoes for after work trips to the gym. Yoga studios will often request that you leave your shoes near the entrance.

Mats: In gyms and yoga studios, it’s commonplace to use a yoga mat, also called a sticky mat. The mat helps define your personal space, but more importantly, it creates traction for your hands and feet so you don’t slip, especially as you get a little sweaty. The mat also provides a bit of cushioning on a hard floor. Most studios have mats for rent, usually for a dollar or two per class. The disadvantage to these mats is that lots of people use them and you can't be sure how often they are being washed. Yoga mats can be purchased for as little as $20, and many studios will allow you to store your mat with them if you become a regular.

Optional:

The following yoga props come out of the Iyengar tradition. Iyengar style yoga teaches that having the proper alignment in the poses is the most important thing. Until the body becomes open enough, students should use props to bring the body into alignment to achieve maximum benefit and avoid injury. Iyengar’s use of props has been adopted by many other styles of yoga. The props are usually provided for students to use during class and there is no need to buy your own unless you are beginning a home practice.

Blankets: Yoga studios often have stacks of blankets available for students to use during class. Grab yourself one or two blankets at the beginning of class. The folded blankets are props to sit and lie on during class. For instance, sit cross-legged and put a blanket under your sit bones to elevate the hips above the knees. They come in handy for all sorts of things during class, and if it’s chilly you can use them to cover yourself during final relaxation at the end of class.

Blocks: Like blankets, blocks are props to make yourself more comfortable and improve your alignment. Blocks are great for standing poses in which your hands don't reach the floor.

Straps: Straps are particularly useful for bound poses if your hands do not reach each other, and for poses where you need to hold onto your feet but cannot reach them.

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