You’ve heard about the physical and mental benefits of yoga, and you’re finally ready to give it a go—but you don’t know a downward dog from a hot dog, and you’re feeling a little lost.
No need to worry—just breathe in, then out. See? You’re already doing yoga!
In all seriousness, yoga requires relatively little gear to get started; part of its appeal is that you can do it virtually anywhere with little to no equipment. Still, there are a few items you can pick up that will help you make the most of your practice.
It all starts with the yoga mat, a lightweight rectangular piece of squishy material that rolls up conveniently when it’s not in use.
It’s worth spending a little extra on a good-quality yoga mat. Cheap versions are available, but these are rarely sticky enough to provide good traction for your poses (and you’ll be spending a lot of time balancing on your hands and feet, so you definitely want to prevent slipping).
You’ll want a mat that is long enough to comfortably fit you when you’re fully lying down—after all, this is how you’ll end nearly every yoga class.
Finally, yoga mats are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Choose one that you think looks nice, but prioritize the technical aspects before the aesthetics.
Yoga apparel is a huge industry, but despite what marketing campaigns might tell you, you don’t need to completely overhaul your wardrobe in order to get your om on.
Having said that, your practice will be more enjoyable if you wear clothes that stretch with you as you move. Form-fitting clothes tend to eliminate the distraction of clothing getting in the way of poses. Moisture-wicking technical fabrics can make a sweaty power or hot class much more enjoyable than cotton that is heavy with sweat.
Begin with a quality pair of shorts or leggings and a properly fitting top that doesn’t feel restrictive in any way. Choose to expand your yoga wardrobe from there, depending on how often you decide to do yoga and what type of class you like best.
Most yoga studios will provide an array of props that you can use to help make poses more comfortable, more accommodating, or more challenging (depending on how you choose to use them). Foam, cork, and wooden blocks; fabric straps, rubber wheels, spongy wedges, and pillowy bolsters are just some of the props you’re likely to encounter over the course of a few classes.
If you plan on doing most of your yoga at home, it’s a good idea to have a couple of these props on standby during your practice.
Proper hydration is crucial if you want to practice yoga without feeling woozy or lightheaded. Bring a water bottle to class—options range from your standard plastic container to insulated vessels that keep your water ice cold even in the hottest of yoga classes.
Speaking of hot yoga classes, it’s a good idea to bring a small towel with you to class for when things get sweaty. This isn’t just limited to hot yoga—an energetic power or flow class can have you sweating buckets in no time.
Finally, if you’ll be sticking to the studio, consider picking up a mat strap that will keep your yoga mat from unraveling as you travel to and from the studio.
The vast amount of your budget for practicing yoga will go toward classes. Classes at yoga studios are typically more expensive than classes at a gym, but many yogis prefer specialized studios for the variety of classes offered and the experienced instructors.
Newbies should inquire about introductory passes—studios frequently offer a one- or two-week discounted pass to let you try out a few different styles and teachers.
Once you’ve found a studio to call home, you’ll typically have a choice between paying for individual drop-in classes, a block of classes (e.g., a 10-class pass), or monthly or annual membership passes. The more you invest up front, the cheaper it will be on a per-class basis.
You don’t have to be an advanced yogi to benefit from a yoga getaway. Yoga retreats typically offer a mix of yoga classes, nutritious foods, and relaxing activities. Some are designed to strengthen your yoga practice, while others are simply geared toward helping you unwind. Start small with a local yoga retreat, or go all out with a weeklong retreat in an exotic locale.
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