If you look at any Yoga store, you will find a dazzling array of accessories, props, clothing and more that you might think you need.
What sort of mat should you get?
Do you need a block, a pillow, an eye mask?
Will everyone else in the class be wearing skimpy lyrca, can you rock up in your leggings and Beatles t-shirt?
The good news is that there is very little you actually NEED to practice yoga. One of the many wonderful things about yoga, is that it can be done very cheaply.
There are, however, 5 essentials I would ask anyone who comes to one of my classes to bring with them (or at least use)
A mat is not strictly speaking essential, but it will be far more comfortable for you to practice on a mat, and gives you a clear sense of your space. At the first EGH Judo class, we tried not using mats, as the floor is already covered in judo mats, but quickly realised that we had no way to mark out space, so people were too close together. A mat cushions your body against the floor, which is vital for some postures, and it offers protection against sliding in some posture, minimising the chances of injury.
It is important to get the right sort of mat for yoga. A spongy, thick mat that you might use for Pilates is not suitable as is doesn’t offer the stickiness, and is very hard to balance on. A yoga mat is around 4mm or 6mm thick. YogaBliss, a UK based Yoga supplies company, offers some beautiful mats or varying quality and price. I will be getting my next mat from here, I have fallen in love with these Elephant and Yantra mats
If you find that a regular yoga mat is too thin and uncomfortable on your knees, you can double over part of the mat for knee based postures, or place another mat on top of it to see if that increases your comfort.
If you come to my classes, you can borrow a mat from me if you don’t have one of your own.
Water is really important for the health of the body. Every cell in the body needs to be hydrated. The best way to do this is through drinking water. Plain water is best, or sparkling water. Sugary additions such as squash should be avoided if possible.
There are mixed opinions about drinking water in a yoga class. Some teachers explicitly teach that you shouldn’t drink water through your yoga practice. Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga, the tradition I teach, promotes drinking at regular intervals through the class, to keep the body hydrated, and to help to flush out toxins from the body. At certain points through a class, I will ask you to drink some water. If you really don’t like the idea of drinking water through the class, please be sure to drink plenty after it.
At the end of a Yoga class, there will be a relaxation. This is a vital part of the class as it allows your muscles to release any remaining tension that has been created by the postures, and gives you space and time to bring your mind and body into balance and harmony.
Relaxation is performed by lying on the back in a posture called Shava Asana. You will, in a Rishiculture Ashtanga class, be in this posture, lying very still and quietly, for at least 10 minutes. During this time your body temperature will drop, which will cause the muscles to gain a some tension, depending on the temperature in the room. The use of a blanket keeps you warm and prevents this tension building. Before we go into relaxation I will invite you to put on socks to keep your feet warm during this time as well.
Many people worry that a yoga class is going to be full of people in Lycra. You do not need fancy ‘yoga clothes’ to practice yoga. All you need is something comfortable you can stretch in, that isn’t going to be revealing when you bend over, that allows you to comfortably bend at the middle. I tend to wear t-shirts with leggings, exercise trousers, or loose Indian trousers. I would advise bringing a pair of socks to put on at the end for relaxation, and to wear at the start if it is a bit chilly, and you can add layers in the colder weather to keep warm. Yoga is a barefoot practice, so no shoes requires. If you want to wear socks throughout, you can buy sticky socks to prevent your feet sliding.
Yoga may not be what you think it is. Even if you have tried yoga before, you will find that different teachers and different styles vary quite a lot. Some teachers include chanting in their classes, some might ask you to do things you might find unusual, such as crawling on your hands and knees. All of these things have meaning and are important to the style of yoga being taught, and will give you benefits that you might not expect. Try to enter into the spirit of it, and remember that everyone else in the class is doing it as well.
Yoga will impact your life in ways you cannot possibly foresee at the start of your journey. Students who come to my classes are already reporting noticeable improvements in their flexibility, but also reduced pain, regular headaches disappearing, mental calm, better sleep and much more. As time progresses they will likely start to notice other changes as well.
Yoga has the power to transform your life for the better in so many ways. You just need to start. So come along to a class this week and begin your journey with Yoga.
If you can’t make any of my local classes, you might be interested in Beginners Yoga Club, an online Yoga school where I will be delivering live classes online once a week, and making the recordings available to you so you can watch in your own space and time.
The club opens on June 1, and you can get access to early bird resources and a free 30 day trial right now. find out more and register your place here
Esther Nagle has been practising Yoga for about 10 years, and has been a teacher for almost 4 years. Yoga has transformed her life into one of peace, wellbeing and purpose, and she loves to share this gift with others.
10 ways to practice yoga when you don’t have time to go to a yoga class (part 2)
10 ways to practice yoga when you don’t have time to go to a yoga class (part 1)
Caring for your knees in a Yoga class
What to expect from a Rhondda Yoga class
Chanting for peace
Release, relax and revive – a simple 45 minute daily home yoga practice