Yoga is literally thousands of years old, and even though we now have many modern variations, the discipline retains its original intention: to achieve harmony between the heart and soul on the path to enlightenment.
However, to survive, yoga has had to evolve to meet the needs of the twenty-first century. In doing so, it has become more accessible. These days, it’s more widely seen as an alternative form of fitness, making it increasingly popular among the masses. Due to its focus on the breath, and deep roots in meditation, health professionals are recommending yoga practice as “mindfulness” to just about anyone, and thus most commercial gyms you come across nowadays will provide some sort of “vinyasa” class.
Naturally, yoga has, therefore, become a huge marketing opportunity for industries around the world. As a result, we have seen the surge of new innovations and gizmos to help push the discipline in a whole new sphere. According to the latest stats, Americans spend $16 billion (£12bn) on yoga classes and equipment each year and it looks set to keep rising.
So whether your more of a minimal yogi looking for a good quality prop to help you progress, or you’re out to explore new innovations that could improve your practice, here are some of the best out there – from high-tech props and wearables to cleverly-crafted mats, apps, and apparel.
BEST PRACTICE PROPS
To improve inversions: Feetup headstand chair
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If you love attempting headstands but always nearly whack the person next to you right in the chops, then this crafty device is perfect for you to practice your pose. The innovative inversion aid enables you to hold a safe and stable headstand posture without any pressure on the neck and spine. It also gives beginners the confidence to raise their feet skywards and reap the benefits of sirsasana, while giving more experienced practitioners the option to challenge themselves and have fun with new versions of inversions beyond their previous practice. Pick it up for £120 from Yogamatters.
For an intense savasana: Yogi Bare Acupressure Mat
The Yogi Bare acupressure mat works in a similar way to the ancient art of acupuncture – stimulating energy, vitality and a sense of wellbeing in the body. The gentle, painless pressure of the mat allows the body to relax and release endorphins, creating what the makers’ refer to as a “life force within the body”. What they mean by this is that when using the mat, you will feel a sense of elation, which is said to aid in you inviting happiness, energy, and calm into your day.
For maximum benefit, you’re supposed to lay on the mat for 20-40mins several times a week. It’s a great feeling, and also priced quite reasonably,at just £29.99.
To help with those backbends: Darmha Wheel
Sri Dharma Mittra created this amazing tool in 1977 to help people gain increased mobility and flexibility in achieving postures they never thought they could do. It’s made from an eco-friendly, all natural and recycled ABS and PU material, as well as being lightweight and strong enough to withstand your body weight. £65 from YogaMatters.
BEST YOGA WEARABLES AND TECH
For alignment: Pivot connected yoga leggings
Pivot Yoga is a smart clothing line that promises to help you get your yoga moves right when you’re at home and without an instructor. It does this by giving you feedback through small sensors on the clothes that can tell you whether you’re in the right position or not.
The Pivot Yoga apparel is said to “look, feel, breathe, wash, and perform” like your standard yoga clothes, but the smart part is that it will also have a wireless connection to the company’s mobile app, where you can take online yoga classes. The sensors on the garments will link up with a “live avatar” of your body via the app and display your posture through the video so you can compare your movements and alignments with the teacher.
The Pivot yoga clothing line isn’t available to buy just yet, but keep your eyes peeled as it should be coming very soon.
For fitness tracking: Apple Watch
As one of the few wearables that have a dedicated yoga-dedicated tracking option, the Apple Watch is probably one of the best smartwatches for yoga, if you insist on wearing one, that is.
Separately, yoga and wearable technology like the Apple Watch are both very different things. But their coming together was inevitable. While yoga is more abundant, the masses are becoming just as increasingly health-conscious as they are tech-savvy, hence the proliferation of gadgets like the Apple Watch, which advocates both these spheres.
For breath: iBreve wearable
iBreve is a wearable that analyzes your breathing patterns and provides you with smart feedback before stress is about to rise, a wearable that is perfect for yoga since breath is the most important part. With iBreve you get to see data about your breathing, stress levels, and your daily activity. Its non-intrusive design seamlessly simply attaches to your undergarment, and it can even survive a wash in the washing machine. However, it’s not available to buy just yet, but it’s coming soon. Keep an eye out!
For a backing track: Sony WF-SP700N
You probably didn’t think it was possible, but there’s a pair of headphones that have been designed to be worn while practising yoga: the Sony WF-SP700N.
These wireless buds are ideal for this scenario because they boast digital noise-canceling technology in a Bluetooth design, allowing you to listen to music without any background distractions but also with the freedom of not being tied to your phone. They’ve got this secure fit design, too, so the earbuds sit and stay comfortably in your ears throughout your vinyasa flow. They are also IPX4 sweat-resistant, in case you prefer a bit more of a stronger practice. Pick them up from Sony for £180.
For perfect alignment: Liforme yoga mat
The distinctive-looking Liforme mat is an unbelievably sticky bit of kit, making it ideal for strong postures and inversions that require a good grip. It has excellent eco-credentials, too. However, best of all is its alignment markers (called AlignForMe) that are lasered into the mat, helping anyone – even the more experienced – remember where to place their hands and feet for proper posture during practice. Definitely one of my favorite mats, and comes complete with carry bag. At £100 a pop, it doesn’t come cheap, but it will last you years.
For playtime and inversions: Form carbon-negative circular yoga mat
British fitness firm Form recently created one of the world’s first carbon-negative circular yoga mats, and it’s so much fun to play on. With a strong focus on the environment, the mats are made from recycled natural rubber and recycled plastic bottles so no extracting of resources and helping the fight against single-use plastic waste. I have also been told that the production and delivery of the mats follow a carefully monitored carbon-negative assessment taking into account the carbon emitted per mat, distance traveled, and modes of transport used to ship to customers. So eco. While the mats are designed to last, they are also designed to be recyclable when the time comes for their replacement. Their size and cushioned material mean they’re also great for inversions and playing around on, too. Pick one up for £79 from Form.
For the super-sweaty yogis: Yogi Bare Paws yoga mat
With non-slip technology, the Yogi Bare Paws yoga mat was the best on test for grip, making it ideal for those yogis who sweat a lot (definitely me). Crafted from eco-friendly natural rubber, it’s not only environmentally friendly but it’s also half the price of similar popular yoga mats, costing £52.99.
For travel: Manduka travel mat eKo Lite travel yoga mat
Manduka is one of the biggest yoga mat brands out there and one of their best-recognized mats is the eKO Lite, which provides a naturally grippy surface, an eco-friendly and biodegradable material. The best part though is that it’s so lightweight and slim in design it means you can fold it up and pop it in any bag and you won’t really feel it’s there. And as its name suggests, it’s made from biodegradable, non-Amazon harvested, natural tree rubber with non-toxic foaming agents and non-AZO dyes, so no environment guilt here. Find it on Manduka.com for £65.
And for getting from (warrior) A to B: Yogi Bare yoga mat carry strap
This yoga mat carry strap is fully adjustable, meaning it snuggly fits any yoga mat at the length and height that you find most comfortable. Crafted from vegan leather and durable nylon webbing, the Yogi Bare carry device also has a removable strap for cleaning or to simply use the base as a neat mat holder. It will set you back £26.95 from yogi-bare.co.uk.
For the eco-conscious: Ohmme apparel
Not tech per se, but still brimming with innovation is men’s yoga clothing brand Ohmme Apparel. Take the firm’s Eco Warrior II Green Defence Shorts, for example, which are made of a performant recycled polyester jersey to stop odors and bacterial growth. The Green Defence tech means is also a performant garment that avoids heavy metals or poisonous disinfectant processes. They’re also super comfortable to sweat in, when you want to do yoga in 30-degree heat, like me. All of Ohmme Apparel’s clothing is completely sustainable and vegan, too. Find the shorts at Ohmme Apparel for £52.
BEST APPS AND SERVICES
For the Apple Watch owner: PocketYoga app
This teaching-focused app has more than 200 pose images so you can keep up with your practice at your own pace and in the comforts of your own home. It allows you to view current pose, time remaining, and other useful info on your smartwatch. Free to download.
For Europe: Movement for Modern Life on-demand yoga
In a bid to revolutionize the world of online yoga and wellbeing, Movement for Modern Life claims to be the perfect antidote for busy, modern lives. Founded by UK city-lawyer-turned-yogi Kat Farrants, the platform offers an intimate online experience where users can benefit from a handpicked selection of the very best yoga teachers from the Blighty and beyond.
With more than 800 yoga, meditation and mindfulness videos on the platform, the Movement for Modern Life app offers users a host of classes from a range of experience levels, length (from 2 minutes to 90 minutes), and yoga type.
Membership starts from £10.99 per month, offering unlimited accessto all videos and challenges, as well as 24-hour access to yoga teachers for any queries you have.
For the US: OmStars streamed yoga classes
While yoga is incorporated in most of the latest fitness on-demand platforms, we usually find them to be more basic flow or beginner level classes with a fitness focus. This is not something true yogis will find so compelling. However, OMstars has focused on bringing authentic yoga classes to its platform, with levels that are good for intermediate and more advanced practitioners, too. Something which is quite rare on these sorts of platforms.
You can start as a total beginner, dive deeply into traditional practice or follow the Ashtanga discipline, take part in a specific challenge, learn how to handstand or relax and restore with yin. OMstars provides unlimited streaming on all your devices for $14.99 (£11.50) a month, offering over 1,000 different classes and courses that to support your practice on and off the mat.