Unlike activities such as swimming or CrossFit, yoga is a relatively minimal practice. You don't need much equipment to get your flow on, but if you want to improve your practice and enhance some of your skills, having some yoga accessories, like blocks and straps, can be helpful.
For example, yoga blocks provide stability when holding poses for a longer period of time. They can also help you deepen a stretch when your flexibility or range of motion isn't quite there yet. And if you're doing restorative yoga, you might benefit from using a bolster or blanket for additional support.
To help you get the most out of your practice, we tapped instructors to share their top picks for yoga accessories, gear and equipment.
1. Yoga Mat
While you can totally get in a good flow on the bare floor or on grass, a yoga mat can make things much more comfortable — especially for poses where sensitive joints, like your knees, are in direct contact with the ground.
Gerald Scrutchions, a 300-hour registered yoga teacher based in Portland, Oregon, loves cork mats for two reasons: One, they produce a nice scent that gives off aromatherapy vibes, and two, they're free of harsh chemicals like plastic byproducts. Though cork mats can be more expensive, Scrutchions says they're worth it in the long run.
Aside from the makeup of your mat, you should consider the thickness, too, says Connie Habash, a licensed therapist, interfaith minister and yoga teacher of 27 years. Habash says her go-to mat (a Manduka Pro) is thick and sturdy.
"It serves the double function of providing a more stable surface when practicing on something like carpet, but also extra padding for when I'm on my knees on harder surfaces, such as hardwood floors," she explains.
Shop These Yoga Mats
- Pureful Yoga Organic Cork Yoga Mat ($120, Pureyoga) “My primary cork yoga mat, purchased over a year ago and in great shape. It offers a nice mid-range thickness, which will keep your wrist happy for many sessions,” Scrutchions says.
- Liforme Yoga Mat ($140, Liforme) “As someone who's pretty sweaty, it's great for minimizing slippage, and it also has enough support for my knees and wrists,” says yoga instructor Lindsay McLelland.
- Lululemon The Reversible Mat ($68, Lululemon) "The non-slip grip material is great for extra sweaty practice! It's the only mat I've ever used that I don't slip on in hot yoga or non-heated classes," says yoga instructor Kristin Wiegand.
2. Yoga Block
Yoga blocks can help you access poses that you may not be able to settle into on your own. You can use yoga blocks to help with flexibility, stability and support in a variety of poses.
For example, if you can't quite bring your hand to touch the floor in Triangle pose, you can place a yoga block on its tallest side under your hand to help you deepen the stretch and hold the pose.
Wiegand says she prefers cork blocks over foam blocks because they provide more stability during her practice. "I don't have to worry about them wobbling around or falling in the middle of a pose." Cork blocks are also great substitutes for weights during power or sculpt yoga classes, she adds.
However, foam blocks have their place, too. Because they're softer than cork, foam blocks can be especially helpful during restorative poses and for students with sensitive joints.
"For anything where you'll be leaning into the block for a long period of time, foam is probably more comfortable," McLelland says. "I also like foam better for testing balance and building ankle stability — I'll practice Tree pose standing on a foam block."
Shop These Yoga Blocks
- Wooden-Life Bamboo Yoga Blocks ($22.99, Amazon) “I need something that is solid for advanced practice, plus they’re aesthetically pleasing to gaze at while using them,” Scrutchions says.
- Manduka Cork Yoga Blocks ($20, Manduka) “The Manduka cork blocks are great! For me, these offer a good balance of firmness and gentle support” McLelland says.
3. Yoga Strap
Like yoga blocks, yoga straps are primarily used to help yogis access positions they can't reach on their own (yet!). "A yoga strap can be used in a variety of ways to make challenging poses more accessible, especially for the shoulders, as well as seated postures," Habash says.
For example, "when it's tough to clasp your hands behind your back in a forward bend, hold a strap between them," Habash says. Straps are also handy for doing yoga binds, twists and hip- and shoulder-opening poses to relieve tightness. "It's one of the most practical yoga props to have handy," she says.
It doesn't matter so much what your yoga straps are made of, just that they're durable enough to resist getting stretched out. If you think you'll use yoga straps often, you may want to opt for tough, woven nylon straps over cotton, which may become worn with time.
If straps aren't in your budget right now, a belt, long towel or scarf will work just fine.
Shop These Yoga Straps
- Cotton D-Ring 8-Foot Yoga Strap ($13.95, Hugger Mugger) “I like that this strap has an easy-to-use buckle that doesn't dig into the skin. The fabric also has a tight weave, which prevents the strap from stretching during use,” says Jen Ambrose, RYT.
- Gaiam Yoga Strap ($7.98, Amazon) "I often turn to Gaiam for myself and to recommend to clients because of the affordability and quality of the products. These yoga straps are under $10, and I also love that they are machine washable and come in a variety of colors." — Nadia Murdock, mindset and movement expert
4. Yoga Bolster or Pillow
"A yoga bolster deeply enhances relaxation poses, and can also be used to support reclining and seated poses," Habash says. If it's not in your budget to get one (or if you have space limitations), you can use a large pillow or a couple of pillows you already have at home.
If you decide to purchase a yoga bolster, Scrutchions recommends looking out for two main things: "They should offer a lot of support in aligning your spine and offer endless comfort," he says.
Shop These Yoga Bolsters
5. Yoga Blanket
Blankets are a supportive prop for individuals who have knee issues, Wiegand says. "I have a hard time having my knee on the mat directly on the floor for long periods of time, or certain poses where my knees are bent," she says. "Using a blanket adds just the right amount of cushion and support where I need it for those poses." Blankets are also great for covering up with during Savasana (Corpse pose).
The best type of yoga blanket depends on your practice style, Scrutchions says. "Usually, if I use a blanket in the studio, I use what is available. However, seeing that many people are practicing from home, do some research, check out reviews and buy something that works for you and your current budget," he says.
Shop These Yoga Blankets
- Canyon Creek Authentic Falsa Yoga Blanket ($13.95, Amazon) "I use this blanket in a few ways: to protect my knees, as an actual blanket during Savasana, as a bolster when I don't have one handy and for hip support in certain poses," McLelland says.
- Hand-Woven Mexican Blanket ($19.95, Amazon) "Using a blanket adds just the right amount of cushion and support where I need it," Wiegand says.
6. Yoga Towel
For extra-sweaty yogis, a yoga towel can increase grippiness and prevent slipping (and the impending faceplant). Wiegand is a big fan of yoga towels, as a self-proclaimed "super sweater."
Yoga towels absorb your sweat quickly, Wiegand says, in both heated and non-heated yoga environments. A good yoga towel "doesn't move around on the mat, so I'm not worried about adjusting it every time I switch positions or move my feet — I stayed focused on my practice," she says.
Shop These Yoga Towels
- Manduka Yogitoes Towel ($58, Manduka) "I don't slide or slip when I sweat on this towel as I have on others. They absorb my sweat without losing their gripping ability. Great for both home and studio practices," Wiegand says.
- Gaiam No-Slip Yoga Towel ($29.98, Gaiam) This budget-friendly option doubles as a travel yoga mat.
7. Yoga Mat Bag
If you plan to practice yoga at a studio or at an outdoor location, such as a park, you may want something to tote your mat around in. Yoga mats can be a bit clunky to carry without an accessory, especially if you have a heavier, denser mat.
A yoga mat bag protects your mat from the elements if you travel with your mat often and face unpredictable weather. Mat bags also often have additional pockets for small belongings, such as your keys or phone, so you don't have to carry a separate bag.
Straps, on the other hand, are a great minimalist choice if you don't have to worry about your mat getting drenched with rain or faded due to intense sun and for anyone who doesn't need additional pockets.
Shop These Yoga Mat Bag and Straps
- Prana Unisex Yoga Strap ($20, Amazon) “It’s a good size and has Velcro closures. Essentially the best strap in the market for price and effectiveness,” Scrutchions says.
- Hugger Mugger Mat Bag ($39.95, Hugger Mugger) "I use this Hugger Mugger bag because it's comfortable to carry, fits my mat easily and has convenient zippered pockets," Ambrose says.