Yoga has been practiced by millions of people for more than 5,000 years, providing health benefits such as greater flexibility, strength, and balance. Some styles, like Hatha yoga, focus purely on relaxation and flexibility, while others are more intense and advanced, such as those practiced in high temperatures. No matter what style of yoga, there are five must-have yoga products every happy yogi should own.
To many yogis, the mat is an indispensable piece of equipment. Yoga mats provide a stable and sanitary surface for practicing yoga to lessen the risk of injury or accidents, help improving balance and coordination, and increase comfort. It is important that the mat is made of non-slip materials to keep the user from sliding around when performing yoga poses or stretches. The yoga mat can also protect the yogi from bacteria or germs that may be present on floors in group practice areas, like gyms or studios. Yoga mats come in various sizes, thicknesses, colors, and textures, and for many, the perfect mat is based on personal preference, as well as things like practice style and allergies.
Basic Sticky Mat
Basic sticky mats are ideal for people just beginning yoga because they are inexpensive and are readily available in most sporting goods and big-box stores, as well as online. They come in a variety of thicknesses and generally provide a comfortable, non-skid practice surface. These mats do tend to become slippery when wet, and may not be the best option for sweat-inducing yoga classes.
Natural Rubber Mat
Natural rubber mats are denser and tougher than standard mats, and provide a non-slip traction for a variety of yoga styles like Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram, Kripalu, and Vinyasa. These environmentally friendly mats are made of a biodegradable natural rubber, which is a renewable/sustainable material free from plastics like PVC that contain potentially toxic chemicals. The material does contain latex, so anyone with a latex allergy should avoid these mats. The mat also includes an internal mesh laying to provide extra strength and stability. Natural rubber mats should not be left out in the sun, because direct sunlight can cause the rubber to dry out, harden, and lose its traction. Jade Harmony Professional Yoga Mat
Thermal Plastic Elastomer Mat
Thermal plastic elastomer (TPE) is another eco-friendly mat material, and is a good option for people who suffer from a rubber or latex allergy. TPE is a non-toxic plastic material that is free from latex and PVC, and is both degradable and recyclable. TPE mats provide the same comfort and durability of a pure rubber mat, and are often less expensive than natural rubber, making them more economical for many yoga practitioners.
Natural, sustainable jute fibers are woven together to create a comfortable, non-skid yoga mat. Jute mats tend to be thin, with less cushioning than other mat options, but they are breathable and durable, which means the mat will last through many years of practice. Some jute mats are feature an extra cushioning layer or combine jute fibers with another type of eco-friendly material for added comfort.
Yoga Towel or Rug
Yoga towels or rugs are about the same size, or a bit larger, than a yoga mat, and are made of a soft, highly absorbent material, making them good options for sweat-inducing styles like Bikram or Vinyasa, which are often practiced in a hot room. They are often placed over a sticky mat for added traction, and because they are generally machine washable, they act as a hygienic layer between yogi and mat.
Traditional Cotton or Hemp Rug
Cotton or hemp yoga rugs, are actually traditional-style yoga mats believed to be among the first type used to practice yoga in India. In modern practice, they are placed over a sticky mat to keep them in place during practice. Yoga rugs are eco-friendly and often handmade, featuring rich colors and interesting designs, adding to their unique charm.
Skidless Yoga Towel
Often made from microfiber or a blend of materials like polyester and nylon, skidless yoga towels are great for travel, as well as for everyday practice. They help prevent slipping and absorb moisture to keep both practice surface and yogi dry and stable.
Yoga blocks, also known as yoga bricks, are used to assist practitioners in the execution of various poses. They help provide stability and support to the body when moving into difficult poses, allowing people to settle into positions they are not able to perform on their own. Yoga blocks also help yogis strengthen, stretch, and align the body without strain.
Yoga blocks can be used under hands, feet, or bottom to intensify stretches in a safe manner while accomplishing the correct position. They do this by reducing the distance between the body and the ground, helping to modify poses to the flexibility level of the body. Using a yoga blocks allows someone to hold poses more comfortably for a longer period of time, and reduces the risk of pulled muscles or other injuries.
Foam yoga blocks are the most common, and in many cases the least expensive. However, wooden, cork, and bamboo varieties are available as well, and are sometimes preferred for their durability, natural beauty, and environmentally friendly origins.
Yoga straps are helpful in deepening stretches for both the beginner and advanced yogi. They are designed as a tightly woven strap with a buckle at one end for adjusting the length or creating a loop, and can be used as an extension of a person's arms or legs to make poses more attainable. They are usually made of cotton or hemp, and have a smooth texture to prevent friction injuries to the hands or feet.
Yoga straps are especially helpful for beginner students, allowing them to achieve the benefits of a pose while maintaining proper alignment and increasing flexibility. Many yoga practitioners use yoga straps for certain stretches, such as wrapping the strap around the feet during standing or seated forward bends, or around the arms for bridge or plow poses.
Yoga bolsters are large, round cushioned pillows that yogis can place under their bodies during floor poses to achieve maximal stretching. They are designed to counteract bad posture, improve blood flow to key organs, encourage calmer breathing, and reduce fatigue and stress on the body. Bolsters often feature a cotton, twill or hemp cover, and are filled with a natural fiber like cotton or hemp, or foam. In many cases, the cover is removeable and can be machine washed, and some also have straps for easy travel.
How a person lays on the bolster will determine the therapeutic benefits he or she will receive. To practice a supported back bend, for example, the yogi lays on the bolster with the head, shoulders, and spine in a straight line. Practicing a supported back bend is great for opening the front of the body, which helps nourish organs and improve digestive function. Placing the bolster under various parts of the body, such as the knees or back, during savasana (relaxation pose) will trigger various responses to release fatigue, anxiousness, and stress.
Yoga is a universally beneficial exercise enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Using yoga products such as mats, towels, blocks, bolsters, and straps, all aid in the success of a practitioner who is just beginning yoga or has years of experience under their belt. Benefits of yoga products include preventing slippage during practice, maintaining sanitary conditions, and assisting with poses to stretch deeper and safer than one thought possible.
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