by Elise Bowerman
Meeting yourself where you are at is the heart of yoga.
Because of being inundated with images of what I like to call, 'athlete yogi's', it can feel as if yoga is not for you. Since you are not in the exact same physical alignment as these athletes then you cannot and are not practicing yoga. Which could not be further from the truth.
Likewise, when you hear profound experiences of meditation and mindfulness practices this can also lead to the belief of the inability to practice yoga. Again, which cannot be further from the truth.
The honest to goodness truth about the yoga practice is that it is a practice. Everyone's practice is unique to their life experiences and personal resolve.
When we honor this place of personal practice - even within a group setting - an ideal environment will have props available to provide support for our unique story.
Props can build self-esteem and actually create more space (physical and mental) to stay in the moment of whatever is going on within the practice to provide improved balance in the effort and ease (push and yield) concept.
Investing in props may take time. They also make great gifts! Pick and choose what sounds like you can benefit from most. Add on over time as you gain familiarity within your personal practice.
Below are my top recommendations - including links for easy purchase - which may be beneficial anytime (including in pregnancy and postpartum).
Yoga Mat Set
7-piece yoga mat set (~$90) is a cost-effective way and less overwhelming way to get started. This is the whole kit and caboodle! An essential one-stop-shop for any yogi or yogini. This set includes a yoga mat, yoga bag/carrier, two foam blocks, strap, eye pillow, and even yoga cards!
A good yoga mat can make all the difference in your practice. I use the Manduka Prolite mat. It is thicker than a standard yoga mat, stays sticky, and is easy to clean.
Foam Yoga Blocks
Four inch foam blocks are where it's at. They're light to travel to and from the studio, and if you happen to drop one while practicing - it won't hurt. I recommend Gaiam's set of two blocks (~$16). (Two is better than one.)
Start with at least two firm blankets to either embrace the weight as a comfort measure or feel steady when seated on top of folded blankets. A popular choice in yoga studios are Mexican blankets. El Paso Designs makes beautiful Mexican blankets (~$18) which you will use time after time - and can take to the beach, camping, or keep in the back of your car in case of an emergency.
Often over-looked and under-utilized in general yoga classes, but in prenatal and postnatal yoga - we use the bolster A LOT. Yoga Accessories' bolsters (~$32) are thick and come in a variety of colors. Pick your favorite!
Yoga straps are helpful when our arms don't seem long enough or we are feeling tight to make a posture or movement more comfortable and accessible. I love this Lotuscrafts yoga strap (~$7) as it is 100% organic and an ideal length of 8' for most bodies. I'm 5'5" and have a 10' strap... which is wayyyyy to long. If you're closer to 6' then consider using a 10' strap.
Extra goodies to make your practice even better
Yoga Mat Carrier
This will make all the difference in savasana or restorative practices. Plus, use it after a long day to get relief from working so hard. Nolava Designs Store makes a lovely lavender eye pillow including a travel case! Bring to your next yoga class and I bet you will feel even more rejuvenated.
Some find a yoga wheel as a welcomed relief to back pain, while others enjoy the assistance to make back-bending more achievable. Choosing a size to start with is easy with UpCircleSeven Yoga's wheel set of three (~$91), or purchase the standard size wheel (~$37).
Filled with buckwheat, this meditation cushion from DreamTime (~$25) is suitable for all bodies and allows the purchaser to add or remove buckwheat as needed.
The FeetUp Trainer (~$150) is a highly popular in the yoga community due to it's high quality and bonuses - 100+ asanas and manual. A more economical option is the Murtisol Yoga Headstand Bench priced at ~$59). Both are helpful for any yogi, especially a beginner, to build awareness and strength to be more comfortable upside-down.
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