7 Yoga Essentials for Beginners

By , SparkPeople Blogger

At its very core, yoga is about connecting the mind and body. You can "do" yoga without any equipment at all. Even sitting and breathing mindfully as you quiet the mind is a form of yoga. That said, when you do a yoga DVD or take a class, there are a few items that can help you feel more comfortable.

Today I'm rounding up some of my favorites as both a certified yoga teacher and student!

Manduka PROlite Yoga Mat: Manduka mats have a lifetime guarantee. I've had mine for almost four years and it looks brand-new. If you plan to practice regularly, invest in a high-quality mat. Cheaper "sticky" mats tend to fall apart and shed yoga mat confetti all over the place. After wearing out two yoga mats during yoga teacher training, I treated myself to a sturdier mat as my reward for earning my certification. Manduka mats are lightweight yet sturdy--you won't need to layer a second mat under it as some people prefer to do with foam mats. (Plus they come in a variety of fun colors!)

Gaiam Yoga Mat Towel
: If you plan to practice hot yoga or tend to sweat a lot, you'll want to have a towel handy. You could use a beach towel, but these microfiber towels fit perfectly over a yoga mat and are super absorbent. And, these can double as a mat or at least be a barrier between you and a grody communal mat at the gym or studio.

Yoga Bolster: Yoga bolsters are pillows that can support your body and help you relax in various poses. They are great for beginners, as they can help you stay longer in poses while remaining comfortable. You can relax and stretch while you focus on your breath, not supporting your body. Try: 5 Yoga Poses to Do with a Bolster for Extra-Strength Stress Relief

Yoga Strap: Yoga straps are awesome for beginners and those who aren't very flexible. They assist during poses where your arms aren't long enough or your body not open enough to reach your feet or other body parts. Straps provide length and put limbs within reach. Teachers can also use these as a support to help you go deeper into poses. You can use any sturdy rope or scarf, but yoga straps have a buckle to help you create a loop for your hand or foot. VIDEO: How to Use a Yoga Strap

Yoga Blocks: Yoga blocks are another awesome prop for beginners and yogi(ni)s of all levels. They can be used as a hand or foot rest when you cannot reach the floor during a certain pose, or they can provide support for limbs or even the back. With three heights and a lightweight construction, yoga blocks easily assist with both flexibility and alignment.

VIDEO: Intro to Yoga Blocks

Yoga Mat Bag: If you're doing yoga at home, you won't need a bag, but if you're going to a gym or a studio, this is a must-have. Without a bag, yoga mats have a tendency to come unrolled at inopportune times! Cart yours around in style, and no matter which bag you choose, make sure it has at least a small zippered pocket for storing your keys, phone and wallet.

Tara Stiles This is Yoga : 4 DVD Set : Complete Yoga Encyclopedia: Daily Yoga + Beginners Yoga + AM/PM Yoga + Complete Yoga Library for Everyone: If you plan to practice yoga at home, Tara Stiles' new four-DVD set is a great investment. In addition to a library of most of the yoga poses you'll encounter as a beginner or intermediate student, you also get a DVD with AM/PM yoga for all levels, a beginners yoga DVD, and a daily yoga flow DVD. Each DVD has at least two routines, and Stiles is very easy to follow. (Note: We were sent a set to review.)

Yoga teachers and students: Which prop or piece of equipment tops your "must-have" list? For me, it's a mat and also a bolster!

More Great Resources for Yoga Newbies:

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I do chair yoga every single day, and you don't need ONE of these products. This is an ad, and don't look at it as anything but an ad. If you want to use a mat, grab a big towel from your linen closet. If you want a roll, roll up a towel. If you want blocks, use a couple of books. The only thing I have used is a ball, and you can buy one of those kids balls and deflate it a bit and it works great. Mine cost $.99. Yoga is something you can do forever, can do it anywhere, and I have arthritis, and think it has been more helpful than anything I have ever done.

By the way, there are TONS of free videos for yoga, both in a chair and any other way you want to do it on You Tube. Try those first.

Spark on. Report
A friend loaned me these DVD's and they were not my cup of tea at all. After looking through Amazon Prime streaming I found two that were much better suited to my total beginners pace, gradually building up as they move on. Best thing about them is they were free Report
Whereas the commercial nature and likely profit from the linked articles is a bit annoying, it was helpful to me to learn what the purpose of these props I've heard recommended is as some may help me to be able to get back into yoga despite my wrist and back issues. I also know now which I probably don't need since flexibility isn't my main issue. Report
I had back fusion surgery for L3,4 &5. Is the a yoga routine that I can do since I am not as flexible as before the surgery? :-) Report
I've started doing yoga again very recently. It's been years. But I found this article to be very informative. I have some range of motion problems that need the assistance of props; especially the bolster. Thanks for the info. Report
Yoga is in my exercise bucket. I need to be a little more flexible. Report
Thank you for this list. I have never done yoga and was thinking about trying it. But being overweight, I didn't think I could even come close to some the poses I have seen in pictures. However, using tools like the belts, bolster, and blocks, I may be able to acheive success. But I am going to try it first without any tools to see if I really need to spend $$. And if I need extra assistance, I know what is available. Thanks for the information! Report
I have to disagree with the early comments too. Each person's preferences are a little different when it comes to props & tools to help them in exercise, including yoga. It is possible to do many forms of yoga without anything besides a mat (personally I will never be comfortable doing it on just a floor or carpet), but some styles really benefit with a couple of added things (blocks or straps).

To be honest, when I first started some of the tools she suggest for beginners was *crucial* for me! It really made a huge difference & I don't think I would've stuck with yoga for as long as I have, or even progressed as much! There is merit in having these tools, & as one grows in strength & ability over time, can do away without. Report
I love the recommendation for the yoga dvd to add to my yoga libarary. However, it's currently out amazon....

Here are my top two DVD recommendations:
1) Ali McGraw - Yoga Body and Mind - It's actually not available through Amazon, but is available on iTunes for 7.99. I think that this is the best video out there that helps a yogi breath properly through all the moves. It's filmed in a New Mexico dessert and has great relaxing music. Some of the moves are a intermediate, but that's what these tools would be great for.

2) Namaste Yoga DVD series - This was actually a show on fitTV. The DVD is a little pricy but you get thirteen 22 minute yoga sessions. I personally like the variety available, which is why I got this set. I have an insane and weird work schedule so I cannot commit to a class - thus the home yoga. I also like the 22 minutes because there are some days I cannot commit an hour or 90 minutes, but I can give a half an hour.

Stepfanie, I understood the focus of your article. I am getting back into yoga again (day 9 of a 21 day challenge!) and I realize I should have never stopped. Now that I plan to keep yoga as a part of my life, I can definitely make use of some of the equipment you've listed. Thanks! Report
I really liked the list of the equipment used in yoga and how to use them! Report
Some of these can be used in circuit training as well. Report
While I would second what WMMcCrory writes, I would add that many of these items would also be helpful for yogis doing restorative yoga, in which support from props enables the safe expression of poses by modifying them to protect vulnerable areas of the body. Report
Sorry, but I really disagree with many of the comments below. While I do agree that you may not NEED these items to do yoga and even if you have some, you do not even need ALL of them to practice yoga (I currently do it with none of these, by the way, but have used them in the past the first time I learned it), I do agree with Stepfanie's list. These items are all very useful in yoga, especially for a beginner who does not always have the strength and body support to focus on the important things about practicing yoga, such as breathing, relaxing, stretching your body, and aligning your energies. I also don't see this list as being a mega-consumer. Most of these items are quite inexpensive, just like when we pick up a set of dumbbells, resistance bands or a new DVD. The article was not about the essence of yoga, it was about essentials for beginners (usually indicating items). Great article! Report
I had never heard of the yoga bolsters. Even at my best flexibility I can't touch my toes, and trying yoga has been so frustrating. Report
I heartily agree. I see nothing here about the essence of yoga: philosophy, breathing, lifestyle. All I see is retail. So sad. Report
That's the same impression I got! Report
I'm sad to see an article about a beautiful, healthful exercise that only encourages people to be a mega consumer. This is so the opposite of what yoga is about. Health and happiness do not come from spending money on equipment. Search for website that are purely yoga find out what it is really about. This article is not about YOGA. It is about spending $$. Report
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