Upgrade your downward dog with these yoga must-haves, recommended by a certified yoga instructor
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The beauty of practicing yoga is that you actually don’t really need that much. Ultimately, it’s about your breath, your mind, and your body and bringing them all together. But having a mat you love, clothing you feel comfortable in, and props that support your body’s needs can make a huge difference. Stressing over slipping on your mat and fussing with ill-fitting leggings isn’t worth it!
When I did my yoga teacher training in 2009, I invested in foundational pieces for my home practice and to take with me to the studio—stuff that cost a little more, but has lasted for years. Here are my decade-long favorites, plus a few things I’ve picked up along the way.
The JadeYoga Harmony yoga mat has been my go-to for years because of its sturdy grip, even when I’m super sweaty. Plus, it’s flexible enough that I can easily fold it over if I need extra padding under my knees in Anjaneyasana (backbending in a low lunge). It’s made of sustainable natural rubber, doesn’t contain any PVC, and the company plants a tree for every mat sold. The Harmony mat counts a number of big-name yoga instructors and athletes as fans, including Cyndi Lee (who founded OM yoga, where I was certified), Baron Baptiste, founder of Baptiste Power Yoga, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.
I remember when Lululemon was an up-and-coming Canadian import doing trunk shows in NYC and now they’ve become synonymous with great-quality yoga clothing and athleisure. One of the first tops I bought from them was a Power Y Tank that I only recently retired. I’m a big fan of yoga tanks with built-in bras, because I can easily pack them in my work bag and don’t risk forgetting to bring a separate sports bra. The Power Y tank has a longer, slightly fitted hem, so I never worry about flashing my stomach doing forearm stand or other inversions, and the narrow racerback stays put so I don’t have to adjust things in the middle of moving.
Using props in yoga doesn’t mean you’re “bad” at it—it’s actually a sign that you have the body awareness and lack of ego to support yourself for a safe practice. Instead of straining to reach the floor, blocks simply help bring the floor up to you, which allows you to find the best alignment for your body and avoid injury. These Hugger Mugger blocks are sturdy while still being spongy to the touch.
Lululemon’s Wunder Under collection is their signature pant style, and for good reason. The versatile line comes in a range of lengths, fabrics, and waistband rises, so you can find the pair that you love the most. The Luon fabric has four-way stretch, so I don’t feel restricted when I move, and is sweat-wicking and breathable, so I don’t feel gross in a vigorous class. I like a simple black crop pant, so I can pack up my clothes for class without worrying about clashing colors.
If you’re prone to knocking over your water bottle in a quiet yoga studio, the short stature of this Klean Kanteen not only makes it less likely for you to topple it with a down-dog split, but yields a quieter clang if it does. Yes, this is a water bottle for kids, but it’s the perfect size to carry in my tote bag without adding a lot of extra weight. If you’re not a fan of the spigot on the Sport Cap, swap it out for the Loop Cap like I did.
One of my favorite ways to unwind is with restorative yoga in the evening. The practice uses props to fully support the body—there’s no physical exertion required—to allow you to totally relax. A bolster is an essential part of a restorative practice, and you want one that's long enough to lay your torso on, wide enough to support you in gentle backbends, and sturdy but soft enough to let your body just melt into. This Hugger Mugger bolster does all those things and is flat on both ends, which helps with stability.
If you’re practicing at home and struggling with keeping your mind off your future to-do list, try this essential oil blend from 21 Drops. (Skip wearing it to class, as fragrance might bother others in the room.) It’s a mix of Frankincense, peppermint, and rosemary that I find helps clear up brain fog and settles me into my practice. Each 21 Drops roll-on bottle comes with application instructions that are like a mini ritual. For the Focus blend, you apply it in a circular motion, five times each to your temples, then the sides and back of neck while breathing deeply. I’ve used it during the workday, too!
My favorite pre- and post-class jacket is old enough that it’s not made anymore, but it’s very similar to this sleek zip-up from Beyond Yoga. Their Supplex fabric, a proprietary blend of nylon and Lycra, is one of the softest around while still being sweat-wicking. If you end up practicing in it in a cooler studio or outside, it’s got plenty of stretch so you can flow freely.
Whether you practice on your own mat or rent one from a studio, it’s a good idea to give it a wipe-down before and after class. These towelettes are infused with lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, and tangerine essential oils, respectively, which are said to help you relax, invigorate, find balance, and find calm. (No matter what, they smell lovely.) After you wipe your mat, it’ll dry quickly, so you can use your mat immediately, or roll it up without having to wait.
This 75-minute album from double bassist Garth Stevenson has long been my go-to for restorative yoga or when I want to have a mellow practice. Give it a preview and you’ll see why!
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.