Yoga Equipment Guide for Beginners

Essential and optional materials to buy

yoga mats

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When you start doing yoga, it's hard to know what you really need to buy. The yoga industry continues to develop new clothing and equipment, so you might feel like you need to spend hundreds of dollars before ever stepping foot in a studio or class.

The good news is, you actually need very little to get started. That said, if you're starting an at-home practice or you'd feel better purchasing yoga-specific apparel and equipment prior to your first class, here's what you need to know.

Essential Equipment

There are two types of equipment or gear that are necessary when practicing yoga. They are the right clothing and a yoga mat.

Clothing 

It should go without saying that most yoga studios want you to wear something to class. But you don't need scores of printed yoga pants or designer gear to be accepted by your peers. Here are some pieces of apparel to consider.

  • Yoga Pants: You can't go wrong with a few pairs of solid-color yoga pants in black, dark grey, navy, or brown. Or be a little adventurous and add trendy prints or styles to your wardrobe. If you purchase high-quality options, they can last a long time.
  • Loose Pants: If tight pants aren't your thing, look for jogger-style pants or the popular harem-style pants that have elastic around the ankles. These pants are stretchy and offer a little extra room but, due to the ankle elastic, they'll still stay in place throughout your practice.
  • Shorts: Shorts are a popular option for guys. They're also appropriate for women, especially if you plan to try hot yoga. Look for form-fitting spandex shorts or looser shorts with connected tights underneath because some poses require you to position your legs in a way that could leave you uncomfortably uncovered with looser, running-style shorts. 
  • Tops: It's important to wear tops that are fairly form-fitting so your shirt doesn't fly over your head during forward or backward bends. Wicking material is helpful, especially if you tend to sweat a lot or if you plan on attending a hot yoga class.
  • Cover-Ups: Because yoga rooms are sometimes kept cool, you may want to take a light cover-up or sweater with you. You can wear it until class starts and, if you keep it by your mat, you can put it on before the final savasana.
  • Sports Bras: While yoga tends to be a low-impact activity, a good sports bra can help keep your "girls" in place as you transition between poses, making your practice more comfortable.
  • Hair Ties or Headbands: If you have long hair, secure it in place before you start class to prevent stray locks from falling in your eyes and face. A basic hair tie or headband should do the trick.
  • Yoga Socks: To be clear, yoga socks are not a requirement to attend a class. In fact, it's preferable to do yoga barefoot. That said, if you can't fathom the thought of having bare feet, invest in a pair of yoga socks with grips on the bottom so you can keep your feet covered while maintaining good traction. Standard socks absolutely won't do, as you'll end up slipping and sliding all over your mat.

These days, you can buy yoga apparel practically anywhere. Though it's not unusual to see yoga pants priced at over $100, don't feel like you need to lay out that much cash for one pair. Several stores offer quality options for well under $50. Buy a couple of pairs of pants and a few tops and you'll be set for months.

Start with comfortable, breathable athletic apparel you already have on hand and purchase mid-level basics for anything you're missing.

Yoga Mat

In gyms and yoga studios, it’s commonplace to use a yoga mat, also called a sticky mat. This mat helps define your personal space and, more importantly, creates traction for your hands and feet so you don’t slip, especially as you get a little sweaty. It also provides a bit of cushioning on a hard floor.

Most gyms provide mats and studios have them for rent, usually for a dollar or two per class. This is fine for your first few classes but the disadvantage to these mats is that lots of people use them and you can't be sure how often they're being cleaned. So, you may consider buying your own.

Premium yoga mats can be expensive, often around $80 to $120. It's also possible to find a starter mat for as little as $20 from various retailers. Just keep in mind that if you decide to buy a cheaper mat, you'll probably find yourself replacing it in short order if you use it often.

Decide which mat features are important to you. Consider what you want in mat length, thickness, material, durability, comfort, traction, or even how to keep it clean. Then buy a mat with good reviews based on your needs.

If you're really ready to commit to a yoga practice, your mat is one place it's worth it to lay out some cash.

Optional Yoga Equipment

Yoga props are a boon to a fledgling yoga practice. Props allow students to maintain the healthiest alignment in a range of poses as the body bends, twists, and opens up. They also help you get the most out of each pose while avoiding injury.

You should familiarize yourself with the props described below but you don't need to buy your own unless you're starting a home-based yoga practice because they are almost always provided by studios and gyms. 

Mat Bags or Slings

If you own your own yoga mat and you're going to be lugging it back and forth to the studio on a regular basis, there's a legitimate case to be made for purchasing a mat bag or sling. These accessories do exactly what they suggest—they make it easy for you to sling your rolled mat over your shoulder without it coming unrolled.

Slings usually use velcro straps to bind your mat in its rolled configuration with a connecting strap you can throw over your shoulder. They also sometimes offer additional pockets for storage, but not always.

Bags, on the other hand, typically come in one of two styles. One version uses velcro straps to keep your rolled mat secure against a larger gym bag. The other version is essentially a snap or zipper-closure bag specifically designed to hold your rolled mat.

Both styles provide extra storage for clothing, wallets, cell phones, and the like. The one you choose really comes down to personal preference and budget as slings can cost as little as $10 while heavy-duty bags can have price tags well over $100.

Blankets

Yoga studios usually have stacks of blankets available for students to use during class. Folded blankets can be used to lift the hips during seated poses or to offer support during lying poses. So, grab one or two at the beginning of class.

For instance, when you sit cross-legged, you can place a blanket under your sit bones to elevate the hips above your knees. Blankets come in handy for all sorts of things during class and, if it’s chilly, you can even use them to cover up during the final relaxation.

For home practice, there's truly no reason to purchase new blankets. Simply use what you already have on hand around the house. If, however, you don't own any extra blankets, you can often find them for as little as $13.

Blocks

Like blankets, yoga blocks are used to make you more comfortable and improve your alignment. Blocks are particularly useful for standing poses in which your hands are supposed to be on the floor.

Blocks have the effect of "raising the floor" to meet your hands rather than forcing the hands to come to the floor, potentially compromising some part of the pose. They make it easier to keep the chest open and torso strong while avoiding misalignments such as:

  • The chest turning toward the floor
  • The supporting knee being inclined to bend
  • The torso being inclined to "collapse"

Blocks can be helpful with poses such as Half Moon pose because many people lack the hamstring flexibility or core strength needed to hold this position with proper form.

Yoga blocks are made of foam, wood, or cork. They can be turned to stand at three different heights, making them very adaptable. If doing a lot of yoga at home, it's worth it to get a set of blocks for poses where both hands are reaching toward the ground. If you're going to attend classes, blocks will be provided for you.

The good news is, almost any block is sufficient, so this is an area you don't have to worry too much about scrimping on. But slightly wider blocks—those that are at least four inches wide—provide better stability. Several sizes and styles can be found for under $10 each.

Straps

Yoga straps, also called belts, are particularly useful for poses where you need to hold onto your feet but cannot reach them. The strap basically acts as an arm extender.

For instance, in Pascimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), if you can't reach your feet with your hands in the seated forward fold, you can wrap the strap around the bottom of your feet and hold onto it to maintain a flat back instead of slumping forward.

Straps are also great for poses where you bind your hands behind the back (Marichyasana, for example). If your shoulders don't allow enough flexibility for the bind, you can use a strap to "connect" both hands without excess strain until you're able to make progress toward the full bind.

You probably have something around your house that would work as a strap (like a belt or even a towel) and yoga studios supply them for use during class. If you really want to buy your own, you can find straps for under $10.

Bolsters

Bolsters have many uses for yoga students. You can use them in place of a stack of blankets to make seated and forward bending poses more comfortable. You can also place them under your knees or your back when reclining for support and passive stretching.

Bolsters are particularly handy in restorative and prenatal yoga classes. If you take this type of class, the bolsters will be provided. If you want to do restorative yoga at home, it may be worth it to invest in your own bolster.

There are two basic bolster shapes: round and flat (more of a rectangular shape). Flat bolsters tend to be more ergonomic; however, round bolsters can be useful when you want more support or a deeper stretch. It comes down to personal preference.

If you have the option, use both styles in class before you decide which one best suits your home practice. The prices generally range from $40 to $80, and the design options are both bright and beautiful.

Wheels

Yoga wheels are a relatively new prop starting to gain a foothold in the yoga studio. These wheels are roughly 12 inches in diameter and about four inches wide.

When set upright, you can lie back on the wheel or place a foot or hand on top to deepen your stretches and enhance flexibility, slowly rolling the wheel as you relax into the stretch. Wheels can also be used in more advanced practices as a way to challenge stability or to offer support.

While it's unlikely that you'll need a yoga wheel as a beginner, you may want to consider a purchase down the line. Most wheels range in price from $40 to $60.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is yoga practiced barefoot?

    Bare feet help you keep your balance during poses. Socks can make your feet slippery, increasing your risk of falling, and shoes can feel clunky while also lacking the flexibility needed to get into some yoga poses.

  • Where should I buy yoga equipment?

    Both online and brick-and-mortar retailers and sporting goods stores offer a variety of yoga equipment. Wherever you buy it from, reading the reviews first helps ensure that you're getting a product that meets your desired specifications and level of quality.

  • How much does yoga equipment cost?

    It depends on what you're buying, the brand, and where you're buying the equipment from. Shopping around helps you buy the equipment you want while also staying within your desired budget range.

  • How do I store yoga gear?

    The best way to store any fitness gear, yoga gear included, is to follow the suggestions provided by the product manufacturer. The manufacturer knows its products best, so adhering to its guidelines can keep your gear in top shape for longer periods of time.


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  1. Denham-Jones L, Gaskell L, Spence N, Tim Pigott null. A systematic review of the effectiveness of yoga on pain, physical function, and quality of life in older adults with chronic musculoskeletal conditions. Musculoskel Care. 2021. doi:10.1002/msc.1576.