5 Essential Tools for Starting Your At-Home Yoga Practice

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Whether we're social distancing or back to our pre-pandemic routine, incorporating a private, at-home yoga practice is a great way to practice self-care and compassion, and is also a great way to enhance your regular yoga practice.

You don't need to go out and buy a ton of expensive yoga props if you're just getting started, but there are some pretty basic items that I think everyone should have on hand for their at-home yoga practice. 

Yoga Mat

Do I Really Need It?

Some people might argue that you don't need a yoga mat to practice yoga, and I would generally agree; however, I find that using a yoga mat helps with avoiding slipping, maintaining alignment in certain poses, providing some cushioning, and avoiding getting dirty from the surface below your mat (which can be a major distraction, taking you out of your practice).

What To Look For

  1. First, you want to make sure that you pick a yoga mat and not a workout mat. I know this seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how often people make this mistake! They roll up similarly, so if you're shopping in a store (especially places like TJ Maxx where they're in the same area), you may pick up the wrong item. Be sure that it says yoga mat!
  2. The length of the yoga mat will depend on your height. In general, you want a yoga mat that is 68 inches long.  If you are tall, you may want to pick up an extra-long mat. As for the thickness, you generally want to pick one that is 3-5mm in thickness. My Jade Yoga Harmony Mat (affiliate link) is 5mm in thickness, so it's a little bit thicker than most of the mats I've previously owned, but it's the perfect thickness for me! Please note that travel mats tend to run thinner so that they are lighter weight and easier to pack. Be mindful of this while you're on the hunt for a mat. 
  3. Does your yoga mat come with a strap? For some folks, this is a must-have. Some brands sell the straps or yoga bags separately, while some come with a strap or bag.
  4. Think about how often you're planning to practice, and consider a higher-quality mat if you're going to be practicing pretty regularly (at least twice a week). Investing in a high-quality mat can result in a major payoff. For example, I purchased my newest mat for about $60 more than I'd ever spent on a yoga mat; however, my friend who recommended it has had hers for 10 years and hers remains in excellent condition, and she uses it very frequently. I consider this mat an investment, and I hope I won't have to buy another one for a very long time!
  5. One thing to note: Are you practicing indoors or outdoors? If you are practicing outdoors, make sure you check the care instructions on your mat to see if it is advised for outdoor use. If not, here's a tip: Grab a mat with at least average cushion and that you don't mind getting dirty and maybe a little scraped up. I use one of my cheap TJ Maxx mats for this purpose (they're usually a solid brand like Gaiam, but they only run about $10 and you can get a lot of use out of them!). 
Light reading: Check out this post from REI about how to choose the right yoga mat and yoga gear.

What Do I Do With My Old Yoga Mats? Can I Recycle Them?

Yes! There are a lot of things you can do with old yoga mats! Check out this post from Green Philly for some great ideas and uses for recycled yoga mats!

Many local studios, retailers, and nonprofits recycle yoga mats. Be sure to check your area for rules around recycling yoga mats as well as local drop-off locations. Just search "recycle yoga mats."

Light reading: Here's an article from Yoga Journal on the history of yoga mats.


Yoga Blocks

Do I Really Need Them?

Sure, you can use books or boxes, but I find that it's easiest and most practical to use yoga blocks. (I recommend purchasing two yoga blocks.) If and when you visit a yoga studio, the blocks will generally be consistent, so I find it's best to practice using a similar, if not the same, props. 

Yoga blocks are great because they can help to enhance your practice by providing additional support, allowing you to create more space in poses, and helping to effectively practice a restorative or yin yoga practice. (These two styles of yoga utilize several props to support these gentle practices.)

What To Look For

  • I like to use cork yoga blocks when I practice in studios, but I purchased my yoga blocks before I knew about these (d'oh!). Cork blocks can be a little bit heavier and feel a bit sturdier; however, my foam yoga blocks work just fine! 
  • I have a thicker set and a leaner set, but I seldom use my thicker set of yoga blocks. If you lack flexibility and are brand new, I would recommend purchasing both a leaner set and a thicker set; otherwise, you may just want to pick up a leaner set. They tend to be easier to grip and can slide easily under your hips in poses like pigeon pose. 
  • Think about the material of your yoga blocks - you don't want them to be slippery because this could lead to injury if your hands are sweaty or the surface is too slick.

Blanket

Do I Really Need It?

Sure, you can use a regular blanket, but I can tell you that the shape of the yoga blanket (more rectangular than square) is definitely preferred. I have had to improvise with throw blankets from my sofa, for example, and they're too fluffy and don't provide enough support and stability. I wouldn't even think about using my comforter or duvet because they are way too big and not firm enough. 

Further, you often need two blankets for restorative and yin yoga, and if you're watching these videos online, the instructor will quickly transition you from one pose to another and sharing a quick fold change. The most frustrating thing for me during a restorative or yin yoga class is when I cannot transition between poses quickly enough or miss an instruction for a prop adjustment. 

I have two yoga blankets, and my newest one (affiliate link) is my favorite right now. It's a little bigger than my other yoga mat, and I love the color of it. It also feels a bit softer on my skin, which makes it easier for me to maintain my focus during practice. 

What To Look For

  • Color: If the color matters to you, you may be frustrated when shopping online. Some online sellers give you a range of colors that they offer, and they will put in small writing that you may receive whichever color they give you. Make sure you keep your eyes open for this! You should also note that since many are handwoven, there may be some color variation.
  • Material: You do not want a raggedy, jaggedy, crusty, dusty old blanket. Peep the material when you are shopping, or you could end up as one salty yogi during your practice!
  • Size: Does size matter? That's the eternal question, isn't it? My newest yoga blanket (affiliate link) is a little bigger as I mentioned, but my smaller blanket (affiliate link) is still a great size. I use them interchangeably, or I use them together if my practice calls for it, or just if I want to sit on the floor. 
  • Cost: You do not need to pay an arm and a leg for a good yoga blanket. You can typically buy a good yoga blanket for about $10-25. 
  • Care Instructions: You want to make sure that your yoga blanket lasts, so check the care instructions before purchasing. Sometimes this will help you make your decision before purchasing it. 
Pro tip: You can sometimes purchase a set of items as part of a yoga set or kit. Amazon (affiliate link) has many to choose from, and I also highly recommend Yoga Outlet (affiliate link). They often have great deals, and they have everything you need to build your at-home yoga studio/practice.


Space

Do I Really Need It?

I mean, you could choose to break stuff in your house, but...

Yes. You need space! A good reference to stand on the edge of each side of the mat and stick your arms out in a T. If you touch anything, you don't have enough space. For restorative and yin yoga, you don't need as much space at the top or bottom edges of the mat (the short sides), but you still need plenty of space on the long edges of the mat. 

What To Look For

Look for a space that isn't too sunny during the day. You don't want to gaze directly into the sunlight during your practice. It doesn't matter as much if the area is darker, as long as there aren't any objects you could potentially bump into.
 

A Quiet, Dedicated Area

Do I Really Need It?

Yes. Absolutely, yes. Your area can transition back into your living room when you're not practicing yoga, but it helps to develop your routine if you return to the same space each time you practice. Further, if you share the space with others, it signals to them that you are now entering your yoga practice and that they should respect your boundaries. Sure, pets don't care about this (humans sometimes don't respect your boundaries either), but the best you can do is try, right?

If you have additional space, you might want to dress up your space or turn it into a more sacred space with additional adornments. I like to keep plants, candles, crystals, and incense in my area, and use a little cubby to keep things organized.  

Note: I like the ritualistic aspect of my yoga practice. It helps me center myself and helps me maintain my routine, but this is really a personal preference. 

What To Look For

The ideal location is one that does not have a lot of foot traffic in your home, perhaps is an enclosed space to keep out the lurkers and interrupters (but this is not necessary), and is a good temperature for you. If you're near an air or heat vent, you may want to close it during your yoga practice as this can become uncomfortable and distracting.

Notice a theme? Try to avoid distractions (that are within your control) during your yoga practice!


Anything Else?

There are some extra products to consider purchasing when you seek to set up your yoga space at home. These are by no means necessary, as you can improvise on many of them, but these are items that I can keep on hand for my yoga practice.

  • Bolster: My mom and I made mine, but you can buy a bolter online or in stores. If you don't want to buy a yoga bolster, you can sometimes use extra blankets, pillows, or even sofa cushions. Pro tip: TJ Maxx often sells yoga bolsters for a lot cheaper than online stores if you can find them. 
  • Yoga Mat Strap: As I noted before, not every yoga mat comes with a strap. If yours does not, and you plan to take your yoga mat to a studio or anywhere else, you may wish to consider purchasing a strap.
  • Yoga Mat Bag: If you don't want a strap, or maybe you want a little extra protection for your mat, a yoga mat bag is another great way to protect your yoga mat. 
  • Yoga Strap: This is different from a yoga mat strap, as this is usually one straight piece that resembles a belt. I don't use a yoga strap in most of my yoga practices (I typically use mine for stretching), but they are great to have on hand for some practices and for gentle stretching. Some even double as a yoga mat strap! If you don't want to buy a yoga strap, you can use a scarf or even a belt (though, I should note that it should be more of a fabric belt than a leather/vegan leather belt). 
  • Wireless headphones: If you have issues finding a quiet space, wireless headphones can be a great solution! I like to listen to music or listen to a class while I practice yoga. Unfortunately, I don't always have a quiet space. This allows me to escape from the noise around me; however, with my Aftershokz headphones, I can still hear my surroundings in case John calls me for something. 
Essential Tools for Starting Your At-Home Yoga Practice

Heads Up!

Looking for more yoga tips? Starting this Tuesday, I am hosting Yoga Teacher Talk Tuesday! Check it out to learn from yoga teachers on a variety of topics.

6 comments

  1. I never thought about recycling an old yoga mat-what a great idea. I also like having the blanket just in case I need a little extra support. Great tips

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  2. Fabulous tips! I have a mat for indoors and outdoors. That one goes to the beach. I have a strap but no other props.

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  3. Oh I love this! I have been doing yoga at home for many years. I'm so glad I have all the basic you've mentioned!

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  4. These are some wonderful tips! I had no clue that you could recycle yoga mats! That's so helpful!

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  5. Such great tips! I have a dedicated gym space that I use and love. It makes all of the difference.

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  6. I am just getting in to doing yoga at home. So, this post was super helpful, love the tips!!!

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