Gear up like a serious yogi: What you should have in your kit to be well-prepared for your practice
Don't have time to read this whole post right now? Check out the TL;DR highlight video. You can come back to this post for more detail later. When you have time. Oy, life! 😉
Having the right equipment for yoga is key. Appropriate and high-quality gear can keep you safe. It can also help you progress more quickly to more advanced poses.
This goes for all yogis at any point on their path. Newbies and gurus alike need to approach their yoga pursuits outfitted with the tools to facilitate the best outcomes and experiences.
BASICS: Must-Have BYO Gear
Many studios provide a variety of yoga equipment. However, I recommend getting your very own of the following items. I have three main reasons for suggesting this.
Not all studios don't offer these things. Or you might want to practice at home or in the park, where you'll need your own anyway
Some studios charge beaucoup bucks to rent equipment. It's cheaper, especially over the long-run, to buy your own.
Cleanliness may be a concern. With your own gear, you can clean them whenever you want with the cleanser of your choice. If your stuff smells like BO or has hairs on it, you'll rest assured that they're yours. (I can't tell you how many mats I've used that have pet hair on them - yuck!)
This said, I do get lazy or rushed sometimes and use the mats, towels, etc. at the studios I go to. That's life. We're all busy. :-) So don't stress this too much. (How unyogic anyway!)
Bag - You need a bag to tote all your stuff! Get one that's big enough to carry the items listed below, plus maybe a sweatshirt or light jacket. I have this C9 bag and love it; it was $4.99 at TJMaxx or Ross. And I used to have a nice Gaiam bag sort of like this and it was really well-constructed and had nice storage capabilities. So, this need not be a budget buster.
Mat - There are so many options here. I'll eventually do another post dedicated to picking the right mat for you and your needs. That said, get a sturdy, all-purpose 1/8"-thick mat. It won't be too bulky and is appropriate for most kinds of yoga. You can add another mat, blanket or towel to your mat any time you want a little extra cushion. I have this sticky mat from Jade Yoga; it's pretty good and super transportable. Usually I lay it on top of a studio mat so I have more knee cush. And I use this Gaiam mat occasionally; it's darn grippy! But you can get a basic mat for around $15-$20 at big-box discount stores. Even my local WinCo Foods had mats for about $8. Sure, you'll probably have to replace these a bit more often than premium mats, but if you can find a cheap-o one that works for you — why not?
Towel(s) - Towels are awesome! They're so versatile during yoga practice. I use mine to dry my sweaty hands/face and keep my face from touching the mat. They also work well as a strap or kneepad, in place of a block or as a light-blocking eye cover during savasana. Carry an inexpensive hand towel in your bag and I promise you'll find uses for it. Also, you can look into getting a hot yoga towel. They're nice for covering studio mats or as a stand-alone travel mat. And, being designed for hot yoga, they can add grip to an otherwise slippery mat.
Strap - Even long-time yogis use straps. Straps can help you advance in certain poses (like the arms part of Cow-Face pose), compensate for physiologic challenges (like Standing Extended Toe Pose if you have short arms like me!), or just deepen a pose so you get more out of it (like supine extended leg stretching poses). Score! I have a great strap similar to this one; the loops make it easier to get a solid grasp of the strap without killing your hands. However, you may prefer a strap with a buckle so you can for a closed belt (which can be useful for deepening some poses, like Supine or Seated Bound Angle). If possible, opt for a strap that's made of cotton (softer than nylon) and at least an inch wide (more comfy/supportive). A strap will run you maybe $7-$13.
Mat Cleaner - Most studios provide this. BUT, you may want your own so you can control the ingredients. Many cleaners have components that aren't good for latex mats. Or they stink. Or they aren't super for the planet. So, you can buy or make your own that's perfectly suited to your sitch. I recommend also having a rag (or using your towel?) handy to wipe down your mat. Again, most studios have something you can use, but sometimes what they provide is sub-optimal (e.g., vinegar-based wet wipes — you aren't going to use your own cleaner on a cloth like that!). FYI: It's totally legit to just use water on your mat, too, for everyday cleaning. Just give your mat a deep-clean every now and then.
Hair Ties - If you have hair that's prone to get in your face, whip around and throw your balance or trap a layer of heat against your body — do yourself a favor and tie it back. I always keep a small variety of headbands with no-slip silicone (similar to these) and ponytail holders in my bag. It's nice to have extras in case ya need to help a fellow yogi out in the hair restraint department.
Tissues/Handkerchief - You never know when you're gonna need a tissue. So, like a good scout, always have a pocket pack on hand. Ye ol' snot rag has saved me many times in class. Some poses and pranayama exercises open the sinuses or cause me to sneeze (hello inversions!). Also, sometimes yoga can be deeply emotional and you may want something to dab away your tears. (For a long time after my dad's passing, I couldn't get through a savasana without silently bawling in the dark on my mat.)
Water - Stay hydrated! You'll function better and feel better. To avoid slipper (read: dangerous) spills, get a sturdy water bottle. I have a trio of these Contigo bottles that I got a Costco — a real steal! — that are super. They hold a lot; the mouthpiece is covered; it locks closed. Mine have taken major be