Yoga At Home Must Haves Recommended By Grace Lee
With Covid-19 still looming around us, keeping fit and healthy can be a challenge. Thank goodness to the latest technology, working out at home can be just as easy and effective as working out in a gym. Yoga is my thing. Personally I have always appreciated the ease and convenience of practicing at home. It is clean and safe and you have the flexibility of doing it any time of the day that works for you. In order to enjoy your practice to its fullness, here are the few things that you must have (in the order of priority)
A Sticky Mat
This is a must and necessity #1. I recently wrote an article about my favourite mat. Please read Best Yoga Mats for more details.
Your Own Space
While it may not be always possible to have a dedicated room for your yoga practice at home, do make a point of finding an area that is free from clusters where you can practice. A clustered space is unsafe and distracting. It is also important for you to inform your family members to respect your yoga time and space.
Yoga blocks are your best practice buddies. You can use them as your arm or leg extensions or simply for body support. Blocks come in different sizes and materials. I recommend using cork blocks vs foam ones. They are denser and heavier and hence more sturdy and provide better support. A 3” cork block weighs about 700 gram vs a 3” foam one which may weigh as light as 89 gram. A 4” cork block usually weighs over 800+ gram. When the blocks are too light, they are not reliable for balance support. Even though the more the merrier is not always true, if storage space is not a problem, I recommend getting one set of each. In general cork blocks are usually more expensive. Decathlon sell the 3” cork blocks for about $12 each (click on image below), which is a good price. If you buy them from other online shops, do check out the weight of the blocks to avoid the hollow ones which are a lot lighter than expected.
Online Subscriptions – Video on Demand (VOD) or Live Streaming (Zoom)
With all these Covid related work-from-home safety precaution in place, the demand for online video subscriptions has never been stronger. Alo Moves, Glo, Omstars, Gaia are among the more popular ones. The monthly subscription fees are very affordable (about USD12-20 per month). Most of them offer VOD which gives you 24*7 unlimited access for you to practice any time. However if you are desperate for human interaction and miss the vibe from group practice, then scheduled live classes via Zoom, FB or IG may be more your cup of tea. Some studios, such as Pure, even offer Zoom memberships so that you can save time and costs. In addition, there is always the free YouTube channels such as Yoga with Tim, Cat Meffan or Yoga with Adriene. But do remember to upgrade to YouTube premium membership (SGD$12 per mth) to have ad-free streaming.
No matter which option you choose, one of the key things is to find an instructor that resonates with you. One other very important point is that when you practice with any of these videos, please use a proper tablet, laptop or SmartTV and NOT your mobile phone. You don’t want to improve your body strength at the expense of your eye sight.
Okay, you are practising at home. So technically speaking, you can practise in your PJ. However, other than the Look Good, Feel Good Factor, yoga outfit needs to be functional. You want something that is fitting, stretchy and comfortable but preferably not over-sized or baggy. It is distracting to have the top keep folding over your face when you are in downward dog or utanasana (standing forward bend).
Yoga fashion is a big industry of its own – Lululemon, Alo, Lorna Jane, just naming a few. They are all sportswear leaders but also come with a premium price tag. Regular priced yoga pants are mostly around the $150 range with yoga tops going from $60 and up. I was a loyal Lululemon fan for many years even though I could only afford the “We made too much” items. I love their materials. They are so durable that I only wish my face would age the same way. However I do have problems with their bra straps being way too tight for comfort. I am a size 4 but I would need to take a size 6 in order to be able to wiggle myself out of a wet bra top after exercising without dislocating my shoulders. If you frequent fitness studios often, you will find that a lot of the fitness instructors wear Alo. Alo has done a great job in innovating with their product line and especially with their Alo Moves monthly subscriptions. However even though the Look Good element is fulfilled, the Feel Good factor isn’t. I find the crotch length too deep for me and the pant keeps sliding down my hips. Some of my other Asian friends shared the same feedback comparing the fitting between LuLulemon and Alo pants. Perhaps their fitting is more tailored for Caucasians than Asians or I am just not the standard built.
Being a yoga instructor with all eyes on you when you teach, I do need to dress my part. But I usually let my teaching do the talking instead of my look. Remember that you are wearing the clothing and not the clothing wearing you. Ellen DeGeneres says it all – “Being stylish means to fit in yet stand out at the same time”.
I am all in for value-for-money even though I do indulge myself once in a while. If you were like me, I am sure you have tried your luck with online shopping with some unknown brands. I have to admit, I tried and failed so miserably that some of the online shops must have blocked my account because of the 100% refund and return rate. When one of my most favourite yoga and Pilates instructors from Korea introduced me to Andar, a local Korean brand, I was over the moon.
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I love the way they fit and they come with such an amazing range of fun color that blows my mind. The material is very stretchable and breathable. The latest yoga pant design has this extra high waist band (13cm) which can totally cover the tummy and all the unsightly skin around the waist. Get this – the additional bonus is that these pants are around $35 only! The only drawback is that they do not ship internationally so you can only buy them from a local distributor (IG @JiminYoga).
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Another more accessible and good value-for-money brand is Uniqlo. Their AIRism bra camisole are super comfy. The built-in bra doesn’t give much support for high impact sports but is perfect for yoga. The price is about $30 each. I usually stock up when they are on sale for $20.
Yoga Straps/Yoga Rings
Just like yoga blocks, yoga straps are good accessories for yoga practice for different purposes. I find my 2m long strap too short for my backbend stretch, even for a 155cm frame like mine. I just upgraded mine to a 2.5m strap from Decathlon (click on image below) for $5 recently. Another satisfied customer!
My Korean instructor also introduced me to these yoga rings from Korea. Truth to be told, when she first introduced them to me, I was very skeptical and thought of them as another gimmick. But I found them very handy for my classes. The ring is about 18.2cm x 5.7cm and is shaped like a hollow figure 8 with a concaved curvature. Its size and design proves to be easier to use for arm extension with a handhold than a yoga strap. These rings originated from Japan and were designed for body massage. They are so popular in Korea and Japan that there are even ring yoga/Pilates classes. After trying her ring classes, I am totally convinced.
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Essential oils and diffuser
Scent is another important element that can make a big difference to our practice. It is not unlike flying coach vs first class when you travel. Out of the 5 basic senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch), smell is the most closely linked to memory. Fragrances in the oil can stimulate nerves in our brain through the passage of our nostrils to remove anxiety and ease our body. Yoga is all about breath, isn’t it? Imagine immersing yourself in a room filled with the aroma of your favorite essential oil and inhaling in calmness and relaxation with each breath along with your movement. That completes the whole mind and body connection experience for me. But do take note that essential oils can be absorbed into the body through our skin. Hence the quality of the oil is crucial. You may also need to be cautious if you or your family members are allergic to any ingredients of the oil. So far, dōTERRA and Young Living are the two more reputable brands that I use at home.
On the note of senses, hearing also plays an important part to improve our practice experience. Music can easily get us into meditative state and peace of mind. I put it at the bottom of the list because most recorded videos or zoom yoga classes usually have some soothing music in the background. Even if there isn’t, sometimes I find that just listening to my own breath is therapeutic enough. Alternatively turn on Spotify and choose from their long list of yoga music playlists. Keep Calm is the one that I have been using for 2 years for all my classes. If you are more into nature sounds than music, there are also many other mobile apps that are available. Relax Melodies is my top pick. You can plug and play any nature sound such as river, rain, wind, fire, birds, ocean to make your own. Flute with running streams and wind is my favourite mix. Thanks to technology, bringing nature sound into our home is just a finger tap away!
Well, I hope my list helps. There are always other props such as bolsters, cushions, blankets that we can use for yin yoga or restorative yoga. Last but not the least is your yoga diary. Focus on the journey of learning and reflection and keep track of your own progress with your journal. Above all, make your health your priority. Make time for yourself and get on the mat daily! Happy practicing.