When I first started going to yoga, I did so because I knew it was good for me — but I hated every minute of it. There’s no sweating (unless it’s hot yoga), I had to uncomfortably hold every position for longer than I thought necessary and it wasn’t easy to work hard. It’s not like hopping on a treadmill and pushing yourself to new speeds and inclines — you have to focus on holding a pose, breathing into any discomfort and eventually, you get rewarded with the fact that you can do a headstand. But over the years, I’ve continued to force myself to go, and now it’s actually something I look forward to. Yoga has incredible benefits: everything from decreased stress to improving your mood, posture, flexibility, blood flow and balance and coordination. Sometimes all it takes is the right gear to get up the gumption to return to class again or to make you feel like an expert right off the bat. To help provide some insight on gear that’s recommended for beginners, we spoke with Dylan Arnold and Michael Mcardle, trainers at New York Health and Racquet Club, and Ambyr D’Amato, a yoga teacher at Crunch Gyms.
All the Gear
“A Jade Travel Mat or Manduka eKO Super Lite Travel mat are non-slip and can easily be folded up inside a gym bag,” D’Amato says. If you’re driving to the studio, the weight of the mat doesn’t matter a ton, but if you’re going to carry it, pay attention to how much it weighs. “Wicking capacities will help to keep sweat from pooling on the mat and becoming slippery, while also helping to keep the mat free from odors,” Arnold says. “Grip is of obvious importance: you don’t want your mat moving under you while you’re mid-workout.” Color-wise, it’s anything goes in most yoga classes.
While you don’t need to bring your own yoga blocks to a studio, it’s a good idea to have some on hand if you’re practicing at home. “They are really, truly helpful. I recommend the 4″ Hugger Mugger foam blocks. They are sturdy and feel good,” D’Amato says. You want blocks that will hold your weight if you need to lean on them while holding certain poses.
“Blocks come in a few different materials and sizes. Cork and wood blocks are eco-friendly and sturdy but are more expensive and usually heavier. Foam blocks, on the other hand, are generally lightweight and high-density, and easy to clean,” Arnold says. “The Reehut Yoga Block is non-toxic and non-slip, light but strong and moisture proof.”
Yoga Mat Carrier
For those with cars, you don’t really have to worry about lugging your mat around, but if you depend on public transportation, it can be annoying to have to hold your yoga mat. A carrier is an easy way to throw it over your shoulder. “Lululemon makes a men’s Loop It Up mat carrier that is pretty basic and looks nice,” D’Amato says. Some mats come with basic straps, which is the easiest way to carry your mat. If you really want to carry all of your own gear to class, the Yoga Hustle leather sling is a sleek way to keep a mat, towel, block and strap organized.
You likely already have this item at home, and truly any style or shape will do — unless you’re heading to hot yoga where it’s a necessity to bring a water bottle over 24 ounces.
“As for clothing, there isn’t really one right answer. Wear whatever you’re comfortable in — be it a t-shirt and shorts or a form-fitting top and pants — just bear in mind that certain materials are better at wicking away sweat and keeping you cooler than others,” Arnold says. Depending on how much you want to spend, D’Amato recommends Gap Body, Prana or Lululemon. If you’re more comfortable in shorts or joggers, do that — as long as you can move around. You’ll need something that allows you a full range of motion — you should be able to pull your knees to your chest and do squats comfortably.
The same rules that apply to your pants and shorts apply to the top — “Something not too baggy, since you might find yourself upside down,” D’Amato says. Tanks work just as well, or long sleeves if you’re more comfortable in that. Look for something that is sweat-wicking and lightweight.
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