So you’ve rustled up the courage to give yoga a try. You have your mat, your comfortable yoga attire, and you are ready to get your zen on.
You show up to the studio, claim your “yogi territory” with your mat, and start to settle in. As you’re gazing around the room, you notice a plethora of equipment you aren’t familiar with (and panic a little inside).
“Do I need those blocks? What about those big pillows?” It’s ok, we’ve definitely been there.
But not to worry; like everything in yoga, the equipment is there as a guide and an option. So, unless the teacher says you’ll need two blocks and a blanket, you don’t need anything but yourself and your mat.
But, to ease those yoga newbie nerves, we are breaking down the typical yogi equipment you will see at your local studio.
The Yoga Mat
Let’s start with the easiest, yet most essential piece of equipment: a yoga mat. You know yogis use them, but do you know why?
For years, yoga was practiced without a mat, and instead directly on concrete, wood floors, even on grass or sand. Until famed yoga teacher, Angela Farmer, needed a solution for a medical condition that left it impossible for her to practice on a hard surface.
The mat gave her the grip necessary to hold poses, sink in, and experience the true benefits of yoga. Over time, the mat grew in popularity and nowadays you will be hard-pressed to find someone in a yoga class practicing without a mat.
There are many recommendations on mat size, thickness, and material, but find the one that works for you.
Hint: Your studio may have rental mats you can try out before committing to purchasing your own.
Bolsters are extra firm body pillows that are used in restorative, gentle or yin yoga classes. They help support the body into relaxation in many different poses.
Most studios provide enough bolsters for everyone in class, but some yogis choose to purchase their own, along with a carrying strap, to bring to class.
The cork or rubber rectangular blocks you find in yoga studios are probably the most versatile piece of equipment in the studio.
Yoga teachers will recommend blocks to help in poses where you may need the floor to be a bit closer (think forward fold, triangle pose, etc.). Blocks can also be used to help you sink deeper into a lunge or runner’s lunge stretches, or if your knees ache when in your seated posture. The blocks help elevate your hips which can help relieve pressure and allow you to be more comfortable in a seated pose.
Yoga straps are also extremely versatile and can be used to help in a number of yoga poses and stretches. If you can’t quite reach your toes in a seated forward fold, they can help you still get the same stretch by “extending your reach.” They can also help with twists, figure four stretches and a number of other poses. Ask your teacher to show you a few ways you can use them so you know which poses they could help you improve on in your regular practice.
While blankets may seem like another obvious one, they can be used for more than just warmth during savasana. One of our favorite uses is rolling up the blanket into a long tube and using it as a neck support during any type of pose where you are lying down for an extended period of time. Blankets can also be used:
- As support during seated poses, similar to how you would use the block.
- Under your knees or hips during poses like pigeon pose for support.
- Under your knees to protect them if your mat isn’t quite thick enough to prevent discomfort from the hard flooring.
Yoga blankets are definitely your friend!
This last one is less equipment and more of a typical staple. On occasion, yoga teachers will use incense or essential oils during class to create a calming environment. More often than not, teachers will only use them in-between classes to purify the air (especially if the previous class was a sweat-inducing vinyasa flow).
Yoga studios are very conscious of aggravating students allergies, so the scents will not be overwhelming. If they ever cause any issues for you, kindly alert your teacher or the studio staff and they will more than likely accommodate your needs.
Yoga equipment do’s and don'ts
As you are learning how to get the most out of each of these pieces of yoga equipment, we encourage you to keep the following in mind.
- Be kind and put all items back where you found them.
- Wipe down the equipment you can, and especially wipe down any mats you borrow.
- Help others put their equipment away so everyone can leave more quickly and make way for the next class.
Now that you’re in the know, we challenge you to try at least one new piece of yoga equipment the next time you’re in the studio. You’ll be amazed how they serve an important purpose to your flow and practice. Whether it’s the different ways our bodies move and work, or pieces of equipment that serve to aid us in our practice development, they are provided in classes for a reason - don’t be afraid to take advantage!