Have you ever gone hiking without bug spray? Maybe you left it in the car or at home. You go hiking anyways. It’s a great experience but could be better if you had the right gear.
The same is true for yoga. This post outlines what to bring to a yoga class for people of all ages. It describes essential gear for Hatha Yoga.
Wear Comfortable Yoga Clothing
The kind of class you attend dictates what clothing to wear. See my post on “How to Find a Yoga Class for People Over 40”. This helps you determine what type of class is best for you.
After you choose your class, read “What to Wear in a Yoga Class: A Practical Guide”. This helps you find the right clothing.
It’s important you wear clothing that makes sense for the class. For example, Bikram or Hot Yoga clothing is made for working out in a 105-degree room. This clothing might feel uncomfortable in a Restorative or Yin class.
Buy vs Rent
It’s common to rent a yoga mat for your first class. Some studios don’t charge you. But most do. The cost to rent a mat is $1 – $3. This might not seem like a lot but adds up over time. If you intend to practice on a regular basis, buy your own mat.
Aside from saving money, having your own mat may keep your feet healthy. Fungus and the plantar wart virus thrive in moist hot places. Yoga mats offer a good place for them to locate.
Yoga studios clean their mats after use. But it’s better to avoid the risk and bring your own mat.
Your Yoga Mat is Your Best Friend
If you are addicted to yoga, your mat becomes your best friend. It goes with you everywhere. If you forget your mat and use a rental instead, you miss it.
I keep my mat for my regular practice in the trunk of my car. Another mat for travel is next to my suitcase. A third mat for Hot Yoga sits in my closet after it is used and dried. I’ll describe mats for Hot Yoga later in this post.
Yoga mats last a long time. I’ve had mine for over 10 years. Take your time shopping. Make sure you buy the right one for you.
What to Look for in a Yoga Mat
There are many kinds of yoga mats on the market today. Each one seems to have a unique feature making it hard to choose. Below are the three main things to consider.
- Length: The standard length is 71” (180cm). Extra-long is 85” (215cm).
- Thickness: The range of thickness is 1mm – 6mm.
- Grip: Some mats are more slippery than others.
If you are tall, buy the extra-long size.
I prefer the 6mm thick mat for my regular practice. I find this to be best for rolling on or over my back. The 6mm thickness provides great cushion for a rounded spine. The negative is that it’s heavy and hard to pack in a suitcase.
When I travel, I pack a thin mat that I can fold and fit in my carry on. I skip rolling on my back since the mat doesn’t have cushion. I’m also careful jumping through from Downward Dog. If I get lazy and don’t lift enough, I scrape my toes.
When I say “cheap”, I mean under $30. Mats can cost over $100. Manduka is an excellent brand for yoga mats. They are expensive but worth it. They offer a lifetime warranty on some mats and have a recycling program.
Yoga Towels for Your Mat
Sometimes yoga workshops or classes are packed full. There might be an inch between your mat and your neighbor’s mat.
With so many people practicing at the same time, the room gets hot. Everyone is drenched in sweat. Under these conditions, you will slip regardless of mat quality.
At these times it is best to use a yoga towel. I think of them as a rug for your mat. I leave mine at the back of my mat. Once I start slipping, I roll it out. Yoga towels work well no matter how much you sweat.
Make it Easy to Carry Your Mat
The thicker the yoga mat the heavier it is. If you buy a 6mm mat, you will need a yoga bag or a sling/carrier.
Yoga bags have some advantages over slings. They usually have a separate space for gear or personal items. They keep your mat from getting dirty.
But slings are cheaper. Yoga bags are about three times the cost of a sling.
Save Your Water and Hand Towel for Later
Some people like to bring a hand towel and water to class. I don’t bring either.
Wiping sweat takes time away from my practice. It’s a distraction. Instead, I let myself sweat and use a Yoga Towel on my mat. This keeps me from slipping.
The only time I drink water in class is in a Hot Yoga class. In a regular yoga class, you are not supposed to drink water. It’s another distraction and gets in the way of detoxing.
Pretend You are a Rock Climber
It’s called “Eco Ball” by Metolius. Metolius describes it as a non-marking chalk substitute. Pat it on the top and bottom of your mat or where your hands and feet will be. It creates friction which prevents slipping.
Your Vacuum Can Help Your Practice!
Normally people use a towel or strap if they are unable to bind hands. In some poses, this can be hard to do unless you receive an assist.
If you are close to binding, a vacuum belt can come in handy. It’s especially handy in Supta Kurmasana or Sleeping Turtle Pose.
Sleeping Turtle pose can take a long time to master. It requires open hips, hamstrings and shoulders. If you are struggling with the bind, a vacuum belt can help. Unlike when using a towel or strap, you don’t have to flick your wrist to be able to grab it.
Hot Yoga Gear
The main priority for Hot Yoga gear is wearing the right clothing. Wear clothing specifically made for a Hot Yoga class. Read “What to Wear in a Yoga Class: A Practical Guide” if you are not sure. The same is true for your mat.
It’s best to use a thin mat made for Hot Yoga with a Yoga Towel. Manduka’s YogiToes Towel works well. It has grips on the bottom. After class you will want to hang dry your mat and wash your Yoga Towel.
Avoid using a 6mm thick mat. It will take a long time to dry and won’t smell good after a while.
Bring at least 30 ounces of water. You will be sweating a lot. If you are not used to the heat, you will drink a lot of water. Once you get used to it, you’ll drink less.
I’ve seen advanced practitioners not drink any water at all. If you want your water to be cold, bring it in a stainless-steel bottle.
You might bring a change of clothing so that you don’t get your car seat wet. Make sure you have a bottle of water ready too.
The Most Important Thing to Bring
Yoga studios have straps, blocks and bolsters that you can use for free. Renting a mat has a cost.
Buying your own mat saves money in the long run. Having gear that works for you can improve your practice. It makes it more enjoyable. If you forget something, it’s ok. You can rent or buy most things at the yoga studio.
The most important thing to bring to class is you! Decide to go to class no matter what mood you are in. If you want to cry during practice, cry. If you feel great, beam it out. Get yourself to the mat. You will feel better afterward.
Do you have any tips on what to bring to a yoga class? Anything unusual or creative and useful? Please share or ask questions in the comment section below.
Have a happy practice! Thank you for reading this.