If there is one thing I regret, it’s not writing down a list of everything that I’ve ever used to helped me with my practice since the day I started.
When I started doing yoga, I spent so much time looking for one “master list” so-to-speak of everything yoga. I wanted a step-by-step list basically of things I could read or buy to help me get started.
I’m going to address that with this post. I thought it would be useful to put together a list of everything that’s ever helped me both as a student and as a teacher. And I hope that you can find something useful here. Especially if you are a yoga newbie, “Essential Yoga Stuff” is just that, essential. I would grab everything on that list and not hesitate.
And, as I continue to learn and uncover new things, I’ll add them to this list and keep it as up-to-date as possible.
My Top Recommended Resources
Essential Yoga Stuff
Manduka Black Mat PRO – Probably the number one question I get from students is: “What yoga mat should I use?” Hands down, the Manduka Black Mat, and it’s not even close. Yes, it is a bit more expensive than your average yoga mat. However, step on it and practice one time and you’ll see why.
Cork Blocks – These are great specifically for learning to lift yourself off the ground, learning to jump through, and learning to jump and float lightly.
Are both cork blocks and foam blocks necessary?
Yes, they both serve a completely difference purpose and are useful in different ways. If you can only afford one set, here is how you decided. If you have a more advanced practice and do lots of stuff on your hands, go with cork. If you’re a yoga newbie and are still working on the fundamentals, go with foam.
Recycled Foam Blocks – These are easy to carry around. You can use these to prop up your hands in standing poses. You can also use these for simple core exercises because they are light. For example, you can practice squeezing the block between your legs or feet in plank pose or even headstand. Note that for any exercises that where you put a majority of your body weight in your hands, use cork blocks to protect your wrists.
Cotton Yoga Strap – Straps are good for a number of reasons. One, they act as an extension of your hands. For example, you can wrap the strap around your foot and pull on it to stretch your hamstrings. Two, you can use a strap to lock your legs and arms in place. For example, you can make a loop and hook the strap around your triceps to hold your elbows together in Forearm Balance.
yogitoes – If you go to any physically intense yoga class or one that is heated, a mat towel is as necessary as a yoga mat. You lay one of these down over your mat and it absorbs your sweat. The more you sweat the more you’ll stick which is exactly the opposite of what happens if you don’t have one.
Does technology and yoga go together? Absolutely. If Krishnamacharya had an iPhone he’d probably use it too. Here’s a list of apps that I find myself using almost daily to help me with my practice in some way.
Evernote – I use Evernote in some capacity daily. I create different notebooks for just about everything I need. I write stuff down all the time. For example, for my practice I note things in body that change day-to-day, new exercises I come up with, brilliant sequences, and just in general anything that I don’t want to forget. It’s like a virtual practice log for me.
Dragon Dictation – This is a voice-to-text app and it’s a great compliment to Evernote. Sometimes, in the middle of my practice (yes, in the middle of my practice), I pick up my phone and speak an important note or discovery I’ve made. Right on the spot, so I don’t forget it. It’s so useful. Also, when students have questions, I re-speak them into this app and it helps me to remember them. Then I save them in Evernote somewhere. Here’s a little secret, many teachers focus on being able to answer the odd obscure question from a student, actually, it’s far more important to be able to answer the most common questions really really well. That will set you apart. Use this app to not forget them and record your answers.
Muscle Pro 3 – A great anatomy app. Here is why I like it. It doesn’t just show you the names of muscles, it shows you how they work. How can zoom in on the individual muscles and see how they move. Really helpful at figuring what you’re actually stretching in your body.
Skeletal Pro 3 – Similar to Muscle Pro 3, except for the bones. Highly useful.
iYoga Premium – This app is a great reference for all of the most common yoga poses you’ll come across. Also, it shows an actual skeleton (with muscles) moving into the pose so you see what stretches and what contracts.
Books (that I’ve read more than once)
The One Thing by Gary Keller, The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results – One of my all time favorite books basically about the power of focus. I refer to this book for motivation all the time.
Join my Book Club for All my Recommendations! Books are just a great way to put yourself in “learning mode” and I strongly believe the quicker you can get into “learning mode” the faster you’ll about your body and the faster you’ll learn yoga!
The Grain Brain by David Perlmutter M.D., The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar — Your Brain’s Silent Killers – Most of us that practice yoga are into nutrition of some kind and this book for me is like the bible of modern nutrition.
The Rise of Superman by Steven Kolter, Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance – This book examines the “Flow” state, how you can stay in it to learn at an accelerated speed, and uses extreme athletes as examples for pushing human performance.
The Anatomy of Hatha Yoga by David H. Coulter, A Manual for Students, Teachers, and Practitioners – I know it looks like a dry book on the surface, but trust me on this one, it’s an incredible reference. Read it from cover to cover, you’ll thank me later.
Avalon Yoga International Inc. – This is where I actually physically show up and teach in Palo Alto, CA. Here, I am also head of the postural and asana section on Avalon’s 200 Hr. Teacher Training Program. If you are interested in doing Avalon’s teacher training (for teaching or for personal growth) read more about it here.
yogaglo – If you are looking for online yoga classes, you can find a variety of different classes here. Especially great if you do not live near a yoga studio and need something to get you going.
Yogavibes – Another online yoga streaming site. Some good free videos on here to get you started.
Online streaming site are also useful if you are a new yoga teacher.
They can help you generate ideas for planning a class, but also you can watch how different teachers teach similar poses. Part of becoming a well-rounded and knowledgable teacher is understanding multiple ways to teach poses depending on your audience. Watching other experienced teachers can give you a good idea.
DoYogaWithMe – A 100% completely free site for online yoga. Disclaimer here, I’ve haven’t actually explored this site too much, but I like the concept.
InnerBody – Another completely free resource to learn all about the human body. I refer this site frequently.
PubMed – A great resource for keeping up-to-date on the latest scientific and medical research related to yoga. Takes a little practice to get the feel of it but once you get the hang of it, its awesome.
Here are a few videos that have influenced and impacted my practice in a profound way.
My Yoga Demo Video – A little shameless promotion here, but hey, I hope you find it a little bit inspiring! Even though this is me practicing, I gain boatloads of knowledge from watching myself practice. Simply because its a reminder to appreciate what I have accomplished but also a reminder of how much more there is to learn. Yoga will be a lifelong learning process, that’s for sure.
Ashtanga Yoga by David Swenson, Advanced A & B Series DVD – When I first started practicing I saw a portion of this video somewhere and it completely blew my mind open. My jaw dropped to the floor and I could not believe what I was seeing with my own two eyes.
A Little Inspiration Goes A Long Way.
When I saw David Swenson practicing for the first time on a screen, it completely changed what yoga was for me. It morphed right then-and-there, as David was lowering from his head into arm balance after arm balance, from a simple activity into a burning passion.
Yoga went from a girl I simply wanted to date into a woman that I wanted to marry.
Although David didn’t know me, he became my hero. (I later went on to meet him in Los Angeles back when I was living there)
Really, a little inspiration goes a long way. At the time, I couldn’t even begin to comprehend how I would ever do any of those “moves” myself. But, it opened my eyes wider than I ever imagined to what was possible. That was all the inspiration I needed.
Watching the DVD formed the basis for how I now think about yoga poses.
In that very moment, my thought process went from “This hamstring stretch is torturous, but I’ll do it because its good for me” to “How will this hamstring stretch bring me one step closer to doing what I saw in that DVD”. I was now able to see the bigger picture.
Total Yoga: The Flow Series – These DVDs are created by Ganga White and Tracey Rich. I’m recommending these DVDs because I did my first ever Yoga Teacher Training with Ganga and Tracey, at White Lotus. They are amazing people.
And if you aren’t lucky enough to meet these two people, you can at least watch their DVD. Basically, you have 3 different levels of difficulty that you can choose from. Great to get you started. Ganga has an insane yoga practice, but unfortunately, he hides it from the internet.
Highly Useful Gadgets
Lean airCORE Bolster – A Bolster is useful for making so many poses that you do on the floor more comfortable. My favorite way to use this thing is to put it underneath my knees and prop up my legs during Savasana.
Pro Leg Stretcher – This thing is great for opening up your hips and inner thighs and for releasing the lower back. I use this thing almost daily, don’t go too crazy with it though, take your time and ease into it. Just because this thing can put you (theoretically) into the side splits now doesn’t mean you should.
How on Earth did you find something like this?
Actually, it’s a funny story. One day, I jumped onto Amazon and under the “Things you may like” category it popped up. I thought to myself, Amazon is too good, I couldn’t resist and ordered it nearly immediately, and (this is not an overstatement at all) it changed my life.
Yoga Whale – A useful gadget for opening up your back and spine. It gives you a nice supported backbend and protects your lower back. Useful for improving poses such as wheel and camel.
Moji 360 Mini Massager – The best thing I’ve found, and I’ve tried like 9 or 10 of them, for working out knots and kinks in your shoulders and upper back.
Ideal Stretch Hamstring Stretcher – Keeps your leg perfectly aligned and focuses the hamstring stretch in just the right place.
YogaPro YogaToes – They’ll help you develop “yogi toes”, you know, when the toes are spread out really wide. Wear them every night for about an hour and you’ll see a difference.
RogueFitness Tactical Sandbags – Why do I recommend these? Because these are bigger and heavier and if you have a partner place these sandbags on you, you can get some really great stretches. These are also long enough to drape across your entire bag, like in child’s pose for example. Sometimes the classic 10b yoga sandbags just aren’t enough.
Rogue Bands – I use these for a variety of stretching exercises. Mostly though now, I use these for hip tracking.
In case you want to put together a yoga blog (or any blog) yourself, here are the simple tools I used to put The Asana Academy together.
WordPress – Pretty much the standard for blogging these days.
Bluehost – This website is hosted on Bluehost. It’s super easy to set up, takes a couple of minutes and you’re done. It’s also nice if you plan on using multiple domains, they can all be hosted on the same account, which makes things simple.
THESIS – This is the particular WordPress theme that I use for The Asana Academy.