Photo: eorgerudy

What You Need for a Home Yoga Practice

The gear—and the mindset—to get the most out of yoga at home.

Yoga is good for body and soul. For outdoor athletes—skiers to cyclists, runners to backpackers—yoga helps our bodies by opening up tight muscles and evening out imbalances. It helps us to strengthen and work on balance, which benefits all sports. And it teaches us to breathe slowly and deeply—in fact, yogic breathing has been found to improve cardiorespiratory function. And yoga has also been tied to reducing inflammation in the body, while boosting immunity.

The mental benefits of yoga are just as compelling. Studies have shown the meditative aspects of yoga reduce stress, help relieve anxiety disorders, and even treat major depressive disorder. The impact yoga can have on body and mind, and the connection between the two, can help outdoor athletes feel grounded and centered in what may be an otherwise go-go-go life busy with workouts, work, family, adventure, and so on. 

If you don’t have the time or resources to attend in-person yoga classes, or are trying to minimize your exposure to COVID-19, you’ll find plenty of yoga instruction in apps and online. The key to a healthy yoga practice at home is creating the right environment. Here’s how.

What You Need

To be clear, yoga has no required gear. You can do yoga in whatever you’re wearing and on any old rug or carpeted surface. However, to be the most comfortable, and therefore, to make you want to practice yoga at home, we suggest having a few key items:

Yoga Mat

Mostly made of PVC-free natural rubber, yoga mats provide a mildly grippy surface for you to practice poses without slipping (like you would on carpeted surfaces). They range in thickness from around 4.7mm to 8mm; the thinner the mat, the more control you may have during standing poses. The thicker the mat, the more cushy, which can be nice during poses that call for kneeling or resting on forearms. Having a yoga mat also gives you a dedicated space on which to practice, which can add motivation. Yoga mats can be rolled up and easily stored away in a closet or corner.

Alternative

You can use a large towel as your dedicated yoga space, but towels tend to annoyingly bunch up and can also cause slipping. Still, they’re better than nothing.

Yoga Block

Made of cork or foam, yoga blocks allow you to modify certain poses by offering support of various heights. For instance, if touching the mat isn’t within your comfort range during a pose like Extended Triangle, resting your hand on your block instead of on your mat can keep you in better alignment. Blocks can be used in a variety of heights—either on their tall sides, short sides, or lying flat—to provide customizable support for various poses.

Alternative

A water bottle works in providing support for some poses, but of course has only one size. A shoe box can work, but will collapse under too much pressure.

Photo: Gabriel Maia

Yoga Strap

Usually made out of thick cotton, extending to roughly 8 feet long, and with a metal D-ring at the end of it, a yoga strap acts like an extension of your arms or legs to make certain poses more comfortable. For instance, you can use a strap to wrap around your back foot during Dancer’s Pose if you can’t reach your foot with your hands as you extend your arms overhead. Straps can also be used to ease into various positions, and the D-ring allows length adjustments on the fly.

Alternative

You can use a towel, or even a long-sleeved shirt in place of a strap, but both tend to slip out of position (while a yoga strap stays put).

Yoga Mat Wipes

It’s inevitable: Yoga mats get dirty. They can become particularly dirty if you practice outside. Yoga mat wipes are often made with all-natural antiseptics to both clean and kill bacteria. They’re quick-drying and infused with essential oils. Definitely an upgrade over standard-issue wipes. 

Alternative

You can clean a mat with gentle dish soap and water, or gentle spray cleaner and a paper towel, but there’s no guarantee the ingredients won’t damage your mat over time.

Yoga Apparel

Dedicated yoga apparel is meant to allow full range of motion while staying put. There are minimal seams for optimal comfort, and no zippered pockets on the backsides of tops or bottoms that will irritate you during poses or core work done on your back. Yoga apparel is made of soft, often anti-microbial material that can handle sweat and dry quickly.

Alternative

Apparel worn for running, hiking, or other outdoor activity will do. Just wear items that won’t hinder your mobility, and that don’t have zippered pockets, especially on the backside. Note: Avoid hoods, they quickly become a blinding hindrance during your first Downward-Facing Dog.

Yoga Apps

For a home yoga practice, you might want to seek the guidance of instructors you can access through your phone, tablet, or laptop. Plenty of free instruction is available online, and multiple yoga apps exist that require a subscription (though most subscriptions cost much less than in-person yoga classes). Here are a few good options:

  • Gaia. A video library of 8,000 classes and videos gives you plenty of options. This app is known for its mindfulness focus. $11.99/month
  • Down Dog. Customize what you’re in the mood for—choosing music, length of class, instructor, focus on a body part—options abound. $9.99/month
  • Peloton Digital. Join live or on-demand classes with a Peloton App membership. No bike or treadmill needed. $12.99/moth
  • Alo Moves. This app offers over 1,500 classes, including HIIT and Pilates options. $20/month.
  • Core Power Yoga On-Demand. A range of class lengths and focus—all with core strength work built in—make this a great app for athletes. $19.99/month

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.