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.
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How We Chose
To help you get the most out of your practice, we tapped instructors to share their top picks for the best yoga accessories, gear and equipment. We chose the following accessories based on their recommendations and criteria, including:
1. Yoga Mat
While you can totally get in a good flow on the bare floor or on grass, a yoga mat is much more comfortable — especially during poses where sensitive joints, like your knees, are in direct contact with the ground. The best yoga mat is one that supports your practice and doesn't get in the way of it.
Although they're more expensive, Oregon-based yoga teacher Gerald Scrutchions loves cork mats. They give off a nice, natural scent and they're free of harsh chemicals, like plastic byproducts. They're definitely worth the price tag.
Aside from the makeup of your mat, you should also consider the thickness, Connie Habash, a California-based yoga teacher and licensed therapist, tells LIVESTRONG.com. Her go-to mat is thick and sturdy.
"A thick yoga mat 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 says.
Buy it: Pureful.com; Price: $84.99
Lululemon The Reversible Mat 5mm
Buy it: Lululemon.com; Price: $88
2. Mini Yoga Mat
If you're tired of having to fold your yoga mat over to give more cushion to your knees, wrists or elbows, a mini mat is your new best friend.
Mini mats are typically the width of a regular yoga mat and give you the room and support you need to deepen your poses and prevent pain in your joints. Plus, a good mini yoga mat won't move around on top of your regular yoga mat.
Jade Yoga Fusion Mini Yoga Mat
Buy it: JadeYoga.com; Price: $24.95
3. Yoga Block
As one of the best yoga accessories, yoga blocks offer a little extra assistance for 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 instance, if you can't quite bring your hand to touch the floor, you can place a yoga block on its tallest side under your hand to help you deepen a stretch or hold a pose.
Although any block can do the trick, cork blocks are a little sturdier, providing extra stability, according to Kristin Wiegand, a prenatal yoga instructor. "I don't have to worry about them wobbling around or falling in the middle of a pose," she tells LIVESTRONG.com. Plus, they make 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," Lindsay McLelland, a certified yoga teacher, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "I also like foam better for testing balance and building ankle stability — I'll practice tree pose standing on a foam block."
COENGWO Cork Yoga Block
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $27.99
REEHUT Yoga Block
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $8.99
4. Yoga Knee Pad
For many people, a yoga mat alone doesn't provide enough padding. And poses like cat-cow or child's pose can be hard on your knees. That's where a knee pad comes in.
Place the knee pad wherever you need to on your yoga mat and rest your knees on it during any and all parts of your yoga flow to ease knee pain and discomfort.
And while the name of this yoga accessory may suggest it's only for your knees, it's also useful to place your elbows, wrists or any other body part on for more support and cushioning.
Heathyoga Yoga Knee Pad
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $18.99
Gaiam Yoga Knee Pad
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.18
5. Yoga Strap
Like yoga blocks, yoga straps are mainly 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 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 or frayed. 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.
Hugger Mugger Cotton D-Ring 8-Foot Yoga Strap
Buy it: Huggermugger.com; Price: $14.95
Gaiam Yoga Strap
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $9.99
6. 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 do decide to purchase a yoga bolster, Scrutchions recommends looking for two main things: "They should offer a lot of support in aligning your spine and offer endless comfort," he says.
Peace Yoga Yoga Meditation Buckwheat Bolster Pillow Cushion
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $38.99
Manduka Enlight Rectangular Bolster
Buy it: Manduka.com; Price: $75
7. Yoga Blanket
Yes, blankets qualify as yoga equipment! A blanket can be 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 and staying warm during Savasana (corpse pose).
The best type of yoga blanket depends on your practice style, Scrutchions says. Typically, he uses a blanket in his studio when available. But for those who practice at home, making the investment is probably a good idea.
Unlike a blanket you may have around the house, yoga blankets are made with a thicker, less flexible fabric. So, when you prop a rolled yoga blanket under your sit bones or under your neck, you get a little more support.
Canyon Creek Mexican Style Falsa Yoga Blanket
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $14.99
Halfmoon Yoga Blanket
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $54
8. Yoga Towel
For extra-sweaty yogis, a yoga towel can increase grippiness of your hands and feet on the mat and prevent slipping (and the impending face plant). 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," she says.
Less worrying means more time to focus on your practice. Look for a yoga towel that has grippy material (usually something like little dots of rubber) on one side, which prevents slipping and sliding.
Manduka Equa Yoga Mat Towel
Buy it: Manduka.com; Price: $40
Gaiam Active Dry Yoga Mat Towel
Buy it: Gaiam.com; Price: $24.98
9. Yoga Mat Carrying Strap or Bag
If you plan to practice yoga at a studio or 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.
Hugger Mugger Batik Yoga Mat Bag
Buy it: HuggerMugger.com; Price: $39.95
PrAna Yoga Strap
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $20