Yoga Tools of the Trade: The Ultimate Guide

Yoga Tools of the Trade: The Ultimate Guide

June 16, 2018

If you’re just starting out with yoga classes, you’re probably wondering about some of the equipment you might need to use or even how to dress appropriately. After all, thanks to the athleisurewear trend, we’re surrounded by people showing off their activewear even if we’re just heading down to the local coffee shop.

But, don’t let that intimidate you. Because we’re sharing our ultimate guide so that you can be all over the yoga tools of the trade in time for your next class. So, let’s take a look at what they are and why you need them.

 

Mat

When you think of yoga tools of the trade, the yoga mat is the first thing that comes to mind. And rightly so. It’s the foundation of practising yoga safely and comfortably.

Why is that? Well, yoga requires balance, and without a stable surface, it’s easy to slip. And when we’re concerned about slipping, our poses aren’t true to form because we try to wedge our joints into a position where they don’t move. That’s why yoga mats have an innate ‘stickiness’ so that we aren’t concentrating on keeping our feet and hands in place, but rather on the whole asana.

Yoga mats can also help serve as a guide for foot placement and help to define your personal space when you’re new to yoga. Having a small amount of cushioning between you and a hard floor also won’t distract you from the mindfulness that yoga should bring.

Reputable yoga studios may hire out mats that they clean regularly, but if in doubt, it can be a great idea to have your own. When choosing a mat, think about whether one that is thinner and easier to transport, or thicker and more comfortable is the right choice for you.

 

Blocks

A yoga block is a brick-shaped item usually made from hard foam but can also be made from cork or wood. Your instructor will guide you in the use of blocks to improve your alignment in certain positions. But, they also make useful tools for added support if you have difficulty with flexibility and stretching – this means a block is your friend, so don’t be intimidated by them! Blocks may also be used to create an element of resistance to make strength training more intense.

 

Straps

You’ll probably find straps, also known as belts, are used less often than blocks in your yoga classes. However, they have some fantastic uses. A good strap should be soft and non-abrasive, ranging from six to eight feet long.

A yoga strap can help you correct poor shoulder posture (a common issue!), and it can be used to help you stretch when you have tight hamstrings or reduced flexibility. A yoga strap can also be used when introducing you to increasingly advanced poses, making them more achievable thanks to the extra stability it can provide.

 

Bolster

A yoga bolster is usually a rounded pillow, although it can also be rectangular. It’s most often used in prenatal and restorative based yoga classes but can be used in any other yoga class to soften a pose or to aid in relaxation.

At the end of class, you’ll find you practice Savasana or the final resting posture. Lying on your back on a hard surface can be quite uncomfortable but placing the bolster under the knees helps to create more space in the lower back region and provide better relaxation.

 

Blankets

A blanket is a versatile yoga tool because it can be folded or rolled in any way to suit your needs. Just like a bolster, it is ideal to use for Savasana, and that means if you’re doing yoga at home, it can be a less expensive option than a bolster.

Blankets increase comfort in certain poses by cushioning the joints and protecting you from cold flooring – particularly in seated poses. In these poses, a folded blanket can also give you more lift in the spine for improved pranayama breathing.

When choosing a blanket, keep in mind that those that are thicker and stiffer will provide you with better support. You’ll now find them in cotton, wool and the increasingly popular blended Mexican blanket.

 

Yoga towel

This isn’t just any old towel. You see, a yoga towel is made from extra-absorbent material and often has slip-resistant padding on the underside. It is generally a similar size to a yoga mat, and you can use a yoga towel in a few ways:

  • To wipe away excess sweat from your face or body. This is particularly beneficial when doing Bikram (hot) yoga. Using a clean towel to wipe away sweat prevents your hands from contaminating your skin with any germs they have picked up from the floor.
  • It can be placed over your yoga mat to give you traction in poses if your mat is becoming slippery from sweat.
  • Use it as a yoga mat substitute if you need to travel light.
  • Or as a workout towel for any other forms of exercise you do.

Remember to launder your yoga towel after each workout to ensure it stays clean and hygienic for the best experience possible.

 

Yoga attire

You don’t need to have the latest and greatest activewear to perform yoga. Yoga is about improving your connection with your own mind and body, so attire should be comfortable and supportive.

You’re best wearing clothes that are form-fitting, but not too tight, and stretchy enough to allow for a full range of motion. Not only is form-fitting clothing the most practical for you to wear, but it also helps the teacher see your posture and alignment properly. That means they can easily correct you if needed, so you get the most out of each pose.

Appropriate yoga attire often looks like leggings or capri-style yoga pants and a sleeveless top with inbuilt bra support for women. Yes, yoga is low-impact, but support is still important throughout the poses you’ll be trying, as is breathability.

Men are best off with form-fitting jogger pants (without a bulky drawstring waist) or compression tights and a tank or t-shirt that fits well enough not to ride up.

Don’t choose colours or fabrics that are so light that when stretched become see-though. Keep an eye out for materials with moisture-wicking properties too.

You may want to take a long-sleeved top or sweater for relaxation time and after class, when you begin to cool down.

 

Yoga socks

Yes, yoga is generally practised barefoot, but there are a few reasons why yoga socks may be a good idea. Firstly, if the studio is very cold, you may enjoy starting your yoga practice with yoga socks on.

Secondly, if you have to borrow a mat and you aren’t sure how clean it is, yoga socks will stop any worry about hygiene in its tracks.

Yoga socks have special tiny grips on the underneath to help prevent your feet from sliding, so if you find this is a common problem for you, or you prefer not to use a mat, you can try yoga socks. You’ll find many different varieties to choose from – with toes, toeless, an open foot design, with compression arches and even those made from bamboo with anti-bacterial properties.

So, now that you’re equipped with all the knowledge you need about the yoga tools of the trade, it’s time to go forth and practice!

Written by K. Cooper for WeirdMojo



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