I’ve been asked several times recently, once by an adult child o’ mine what one needs to start yoga. This might seem, to some of you yoga veterans, like an odd question. But, I have a lot of empathy for people who ask it, because my personal tendency is to want to “break into” any new venture by buying something associated with it (Thinking about running? Need new shoes. Biking? Need a new bike. Blogging? Need a website.). So, in this post, I lay out what you need to get started in yoga.
What you really need is very very simple. You need a little knowledge. You need to know what yoga is and some ideas about how to get started. If you are reading here, I’m going to assume you have internet access. There are many sites about beginning yoga. I would recommend surfing around a little and testing them out. Some possibilities include ABC of Yoga, Yoga Basics, Yoga Journal, and blogs like this and those listed on YIOMsite.com. As you peruse such sites, get a sense of which appeal to you and which don’t. If a site seems to be primarily about selling you a subscription, a book, a product, or a DVD, move on. There are so many others to choose from, you don’t need to pay for this information to get started. If/when you move into the physical practice, you can find plenty of free online videos to get you started (for example, check out Yoga Today where there is a different free class each week). Next, you need a body. Got one? Good. You need a place to practice. It could be a spot in your yard, your kitchen, your office, or your bed. It doesn’t have to have anything special about it, though you may find over time that you practice better in some places than others.
What might be helpful but is not absolutely needed is the next category. In this category, I would put a few things. First, comfortable clothing. This is a “might” and not a “must” because you can practice yoga in whatever clothing you have on or no clothing at all. However, as you go along, you may find that clothing which breathes, stretches, and doesn’t bind is nice for your practice. Don’t get caught up in thinking you have to rush right out to Lululemon to buy pants (don’t get me wrong, I have a pair that I love, but I started with pajama pants from Target). Second, you might want a mat. This isn’t a requirement, because you can practice yoga on your floor, carpet, a towel, or a blanket. If your practice is primarily or partially asana (physical poses) and becomes more vigorous, you might find that having a mat prevents slippage and provides cushioning. Again here, there are really pricey mats, but to begin with I would say ask your friends and see if someone has a spare they are using, or check out inexpensive stores like Target or Marshalls. Third, you might want a live teacher. You can learn quite a bit from online free videos, checking out DVDs from the library, and reading. But, a teacher in the room with you provides the added benefit of feedback. While I loved yoga before I started taking in-person classes, the instruction I received from face-to-face classes made a big difference in my practice and the understanding of it. Check around your area for free classes at community centers or schools, reduced fee classes at local gyms or studios (some times of day might be less expensive than others), or inexpensive starter packages that will let you try it out. Don’t get pressured into buying a year-long gym membership or a 3 month unlimited class pass. You don’t have to spend that kind of cash to begin the practice. Most studios or gyms with studio classes will provide all of the props, and often even the mat, that they are asking you to use during a class.
What’s cool to have but not really needed would include things like fancy schmantzy yoga clothes (not even going to lie, I love some of my more expensive clothing items, but I didn’t need them to do yoga), a really nifty mat, your own copy of Light on Yoga, a set of blocks and/or a blanket for your home practice, and some good yoga music. All of these things are the extras. You don’t need them. They won’t make you more unified with the divine, more fit, more “yogic,” or more peaceful. They might tickle you to have, and if you want them, you have already figured out that you like yoga, and you can afford the purchases, rock on!