One reason some people really like yoga is that it is something you can do just about anywhere. You don’t really need to have any special equipment to do it. But with that said, there are definitely some pieces of equipment that you should consider essential, and the rest is only important if it helps you.
A yoga mat is really the only piece of equipment that would be considered absolutely essential equipment. Yoga mats are not generally expensive, and they pack away into a compact roll for easy storage or transport. The primary reason these are essential is for your safety. Yoga mats are designed to keep your feet and hands in place when you are in a posture, and also prevent slipping when transitioning from one posture to another. A mat can also provide some small amount of cushion, though this is not their primary function.
With the exception of those who practice yoga in the nude, proper yoga clothing should also be considered essential equipment. Yoga clothing should be loose fitting but not baggy, and it should be comfortable and flexible. Improperly fitting loose clothing is a safety hazard that can cause you to slip or trip and injure yourself. Tight clothing can restrict movement and can negate some of the beneficial effects of the yoga postures.
All other yoga equipment is non-essential. However, you may find that some of it can help you to be more comfortable in some postures, or help you to stretch more properly and maintain proper form. If this is true for you, then you should certainly consider adding this equipment into your practice, or improvising and finding something else to perform the same function.
A yoga cushion, also referred to as a meditation cushion, is used to prop your hips up, and is generally used in cross-legged positions such as the lotus position. A yoga or meditation bench serves the same function. This is certainly one piece of equipment you can improvise, but be careful that whatever you use is sturdy and doesn’t shift while you sit on it.
Similar to the yoga cushion, a yoga bolster is a larger cushion that is used to support your head, shoulders, back and abdomen when doing stretches involving leaning back. These help to reduce the stress on your lower back and throughout the spine, which can help prevent injury.
Yoga blocks are used as a prop to help you keep your balance, especially in poses where one or both of your hands are expected to be on the floor. These expand the reach of your arm so that you can have a solid base below your hand without having to stretch it all the way to the floor.
And yoga straps are also used to extend your reach. They allow you to stretch in a more proper manner, and possibly further than you could without the strap. Often these straps are slipped below the feet for standing or seated stretches, and are used to hook the feet for stretches where the leg comes up behind you. If you are limited in your flexibility, especially when starting out in yoga, you will find that these straps are really invaluable.
So you can pick and choose your yoga equipment, and even improvise and make your own. Whatever you choose to do, be careful and always ensure you are keeping the proper posture, for safety’s sake.
To keep your yoga mat [http://www.yogaforyourhealth.com/2009/07/yoga-mat/] clean and packed away for taking to class, on vacation, or to your weekly class, you will probably want to find a good yoga mat bag [http://www.yogaforyourhealth.com/2009/07/nylon-zippered-yoga-mat-bag/].