While it can be nice to be part of a yoga studio, sometimes it can be hard to find the right one near home that fits your budget and schedule. It can also be tricky finding a yoga studio that doesn’t push you to the point of injury. I was lucky enough to take a beginner’s class when I was living in Seattle, and it gave me the foundation to build my home yoga practice on. Over the years I’ve collected some equipment for my yoga practice, but have also added a foam roller and a pair of dumbbells to the mix.
I’ve gone through some trial and error with selecting a yoga mat, so here is what you should consider when shopping for a yoga mat:
- Yoga Mat Surface Texture– There are two things to consider in a yoga mat. The first is your preference of surface texture. Most yoga mats have a grippy texture, but there are in fact some that have a smooth surface such as The Mat by Lululemon. I tried out The Mat in a Lululemon store but didn’t really like the texture. You might be wondering, shouldn’t you be looking for the mat that will stop me from slipping all the time? Well, I must have the most slippery palms and feet in the universe, because no mat has ever stopped me from slipping (I’ll share my non-slip secrets further in the post). However, it should have enough grip to keep you from slipping when you haven’t actually started sweating.
- Yoga Mat for the Studio – After you figure out which texture you prefer, the second think you need to consider is the purpose of the mat. Will you be taking it to a yoga studio or will you be using it at home? If you’re taking it to a studio, by all means get a yoga mat in a standard thickness or a thin one. Then when you get to the studio, stack your mat on top of the one that’s provided by the studio. Double or triple stack the mats to get some padding in there. If you’re worried about hygiene, carrying your own mat is not necessarily the answer. You place your mat in a public area where people have been running around barefoot, and when you roll it back up the surface touching the floor is rolling into the surface where you just put your face. So carry a small spray of a natural yoga mat cleaner, and give it a thorough washing every month instead.
- Yoga Mat for Home -If you’ve been doing yoga for a while and have decided to continue to practice at home on a regular basis, you may want to invest in a thick yoga mat. I bought the Black Mat Pro by Manduka as a lifelong investment 3 years ago and it is still going strong. You can see from the photo above that it’s about twice as thick as regular mats, and has enough grip that it won’t budge during practice. I was always annoyed when regular mats bunched up during a yoga move as I’d have to stop and flatten my mat, but I’ve never had that problem with this mat.
- Yoga Towel – I have tried different “non-slip” yoga mats, and I’ve also tried the grippy gloves and socks by Gaiam, and none of them stopped me from slipping on my yoga mat during a downward dog. The gloves and socks themselves didn’t slip on the mat, but my hands and feet were slipping inside the gloves and socks causing them to dig into my skin. Besides, who wants to do yoga wearing a pair of gloves and socks anyway? As a last resort, I decided to try the yoga towel and it has been a life saver! I bought three in the hand towel size off of Amazon and have used them for every practice ever since. I don’t need a large one to cover my entire mat, as I’m not doing hot yoga and my current mat provides enough grip for my feet.
- Yoga Block – The most important thing I learned during the beginner’s yoga class I took, was that most if not all poses can be modified. Everyone has different quirks and limitations in their body, and one pose does not fit all. I think it’s great to have at least two blocks so that you can have one for each hand, or stack them on top of each other.
- Yoga Strap – A strap can be useful for modifications and also for improving posture. My advice to you is not to get anything shorter than 10 ft. You can use a longer strap for modifications that require a short length, but you can’t use a shorter strap for a modification that requires a longer length. Originally, I had the D-ring strap by Barefoot Yoga as this is the one that was used in the beginners class I went to. When my dad wanted a strap for some posture modification, I gave him the one I was using because I wanted to try the Manduka strap. I like their newly designed buckle as it probably won’t break (the one on Amazon still has the old buckle and looks shoddy), and it’s straight forward to use and doesn’t bunch up the strap due to a curved ring like the D-ring.
- Foam Roller – Since I learned how to use a foam roller, it has become a staple in my workouts. I love that I can use it both before and after workouts, or after a long day in heels. It’s also great for a back massage in the shoulder area! I think I may start looking into a spiked one for my hamstrings, but the flat surfaced foam roller I’m using right now is plenty for my IT bands.
- Dumbbells – It’s a bit intimidating to see all the workout equipment at the gym. I like that dumbbells are simple and that you can easily find workouts for them on Youtube. I’m currently trying out the workout dvd by Ashley Borden, because I liked her workouts on Youtube and wanted to try an extended exercise regime. Each week has 5 days of workouts, one day of yoga, and one day of rest. To be honest, I liked her strength workout videos, but didn’t like her yoga video because her verbal instructions weren’t very clear. So I will be substituting the yoga workout by Kathryn Budig.
The last tip I want to leave you with is that since exercise equipment lasts forever, get it in a color that you like. I enjoy using the navy strap much more than I ever did using the oatmeal colored one, and prefer the violet and red yoga towel to that ugly “seafoam” one that I’m hiding at the bottom (at the time of purchase the color swatch showed it as a softer sea-blue, not green).
Your turn ♥ What type of workout do you do at home? What are some of your home workout essentials?