Yoga for Beginners: Necessary Props & Equipment
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When I started practicing yoga I had nothing but my pink $7 yoga mat and some DVDs I ordered online. I didn’t even know what a block might be used for, how a strap has many functions, or what a yoga wheel could do for me.

I practiced for years with just my yoga mat, oblivious to the fact that yoga props can make a profound impact on your practice.

The few times I was faced with having to use a yoga block at a studio I thought, “I don’t need a block!”. I felt offended by the item, rather than embracing the extra support. I soon learned that I actually (to this day) prefer a block in many poses and yoga straps are the bomb.com.

I constantly have students ask me questions like,

“Do I need a strap/block/wheel/bolster”

“Should I have one block or two?”

“What about mat towels and yoga socks and mat bags?”

 

I’ve also heard,

“I don’t want to buy all of this stuff if I don’t know how to use it”

“Can I learn first and then get the props I might need?”

“I don’t want to feel embarrassed because I need a block/strap during a class!”

 

Looking back on my own resistance with this stuff I smile and let my students know that props are YOUR FRIEND and we should all be using them to explore our practice. Period.

Also, they are worth it. Regardless of if you get yours on sale or buy the fanciest blocks that exists (which isn’t necessary), you’ll be glad you have them!!

So, what are the best and necessary props and the nice-to-have but don’t exactly need to get started?

You will see various opinions on the Internet and a lot of them are swayed by a brand partnerships, like “you must have these pants, they are the best!” *likely a clothing company endorsement* or “this mat is the only mat you should own!!” *likely a mat endorsement*. Be wary and do you research before buying.


Recommended Yoga Props for Beginners (and items you don't need just yet)

This is my honest, unsponsored-list of items you need and might-need for starting a yoga practice, in order of importance:

Must-Have Yoga Props & Equipment

Yoga Mat

My first yoga mat was a $7 yoga mat I picked up at TJ Maxx. It was great for starting in my basement and practicing on my own terms. But, as soon as I took it to a Bikram yoga class I realized how much I sweat and decided I needed a grippier mat. I then bought my Manduka pro. This one was also great for my home practice and slower, restorative flows. I used this mat daily until I took it to a hot yoga studio where early in the class the teacher gave me a mat towel because I was sliding around like a baby deer learning to walk on ice. Needless to say, I've been working with a business partner to bring an awesome mat to the market that you can actually afford, works with sweat/any practice, and does good in the world! *This is the mat I have now but it is a prototype (a.k.a. not for sale just yet). 

A note on mat towels: You will need one if you don't have a grippy mat and sweat a lot. So, it's up to you depending on your personal needs ;) 

Advice for purchasing:

  1. Research online first - Take note of price points you're comfortable with and features that you might be looking for (weight, length, thickness)
  2. Go to your local sporting goods store or yoga boutique and touch the mats! Feel there top coat and weight.
  3. Then, decide whether you’ll purchase from a local store or online.

*You can also do mat rentals at studios and “test-drive” them that way

Yoga Blocks

You need them. Two of them. Sizes, shapes, designs, and material differ so do you research here too. Foam blocks are the most common but you will also see cork and plastic blocks. I have all of the above. The foam blocks are the most comfortable, lightest in weight, and easiest to use during practice. They are also usually the least expensive.

Yoga Strap

Yoga straps are great for getting into poses that you can’t quite reach for yet (dancer pose, extended knee/toe raise, king pigeon, and so on). Straps can also be used as a mat strap (no need for a yoga mat bag then, huh?). That’s how I use mine. I loop and knot it to be used as my mat sling and then take it off, unroll my mat, and practice. This way I have it with me and it helps keep my mat rolled up in between.


Nice-to-Have Yoga Props & Equipment

Bolster

Bolsters are wonderful to have if you’re going to have a regular home practice. I use mine daily for different reasons. But, if you are going to a studio that has bolsters then I wouldn’t think it necessary to buy one as you’re getting started.

Yoga Wheel

A yoga wheel is wonderful for opening your shoulders and chest, practicing inversions, and learning new “tricks”. I didn’t get a yoga wheel until a few years into my practice and I still don’t use it as often as I thought I would. They are a little pricey and definitely not necessary for practice. If you want one (like everything else) do you research before you buy : )

A note on yoga clothes:

This is a very subjective and personal matter (oddly enough). You can find good yoga clothing from $10 - $200 depending on where you look. I think the most important thing is to make sure you are comfortable in your clothing (seriously, like make sure they fit and you’re not constantly pulling and adjusting throughout your practice). Whatever you need to buy and wear to limit your distractions is up to you. I do recommend doing some research on actual clothing companies before buying from them. believe this should be thought about in all purchases, but want to emphasize here too :)


Want to win the Yoga Basics Bundle I'm giving away? 

Sign up for my free 5-day yoga training where you’ll get my complete step-by-step system for:

  • figuring out how to start a yoga practice that's right for you, 

  • understanding what all of the yoga props and accessories are for,

  • and, get actionable advice on how to begin your journey. 

Once you sign up you will receive the first email on Monday, July 9th AND be entered to win a yoga mat, yoga blocks, yoga strap, and a yoga mat towel! 


5 Tips for Making Progress in Your Yoga Practice (plus, my progress pics!)

I used to have a big empty room with two full walls of windows, light-colored paint on the walls, and pocket doors that I could slide open and close whenever I wanted. This was my yoga room. My safe haven. My space.

I would retreat to this room almost every evening to practice. I felt safe and at peace. No one was looking at me or critiquing me. I made a lot of physical progress in this room - where I’d flow, fall over, get sweaty, and document my yoga practice. But I started to get lonely.

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For along time I only practiced solo. Randomly going to a community class every few months. I hadn't even considered what my practice would look like or how I'd open up even more once I put myself into a group setting. 

Fast forward to November 2016 when I began my 200 hour yoga teacher training. A huge endeavor that I couldn’t wait to take on.

What I didn’t know is how much I didn’t know about yoga leading up to this.

Things like, proper alignment (to an extent), taking self inquiry to a whole new level, and belonging to a safe, supportive community. Man, I’d been missing out on a lot during all of those nights alone in my yoga room.

Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of questions about progressing in yoga, tracking progress, and trusting yourself to just move. All of the solo practice resulted in the ability to just free flow - a thing that I later learned was foreign to a lot of people. 

I haven’t always been as flexible or flowy or yoga-esque, and my journey has been full of a ton of trial and error. Seriously - I started right where you might be today. On my $7 yoga mat from TJ Maxx and some DVDs in my parents basement. And because of it all, I’m awestruck that I’m here, right now.

I mean, come on. Look how adorable my first yoga post was. This was the beginning of all of it for me. 

Give thanks in all circumstances #mattime #yoga #unwind

A post shared by Hailey ✨ (@haileyheishman) on

I had no idea what I was doing or where it would lead me, but I’m so glad I asked my mom to take pictures of me that one January night in the kitchen. Because now I can look back at where I started and smile at how much has grown in my life.

January 2014:

June 2018:

Disclaimer: I’m not saying that yoga changed my life solely - but through my practice, I’ve gotten a lot closer to who I am at my core, and that’s pretty freaking cool! It’s definitely turbocharged my personal growth in an incredible way.

Tips for Making Progress & Maintaining a Healthy Yoga Practice

1. Track Your Progress  

I decided to track right where I was in the moment (via photos, videos & journaling). You can tell through the pictures and videos in this post that I've documented since day one. Even if you never share any of your photos/videos I still recommend doing it for your own reflection process. 

2. Don’t do the same stuff

I paid attention to when I was falling into a routine and would change it up.

To this day I still catch myself saying, “I want to do a handstand” and then go on to not practice. Guess what? I’m not going to wake up one day upside down, and I know that. Noticing habitual habits helps us make choices for change. 

3. Be consistent & committed

No matter what, I always came back to my practice. This doesn’t mean “unless you get on your yoga mat every damn day 365 you’re not a yogi”. It’s actually the opposite. It’s knowing and listening to your body. Giving yourself space to not practice and then come back when you are ready. It’s the constant ebb and flow, and zero judgement for when you miss a day, week, or month. This is noticing your resistance and having a conversation with yourself about it. Like the times you make up 100 excuses and don’t feel any better afterward. Notice the excuse and then get curious about it.

4. Don’t limit yourself to your mat 

Get curious about different surfaces and what your practice can look like not on a mat. I’m not talking about “being yogic in every area of your life”. I mean, Go outside and do yoga on the grass, concrete, brick sidewalk. Experience new surfaces.

I reached a point in my practice a few years ago where I felt like I had to travel with my mat and take it everywhere, just in case I wanted to practice. Instead it was very restricting for me and I found myself not wanting to practice on whatever trip I was on. Now I don’t take my mat with me and if I feel like moving, I move wherever I am. I improvise and get creative - and it's fun!

5. Get to know yourself on a deeper level

Getting to know myself has been the biggest adventure I could imagine, and it’s a daily practice. How well do you know yourself? Yoga (or you know, life) requires a constant practice of awareness and inquiry. If you want to progress in whatever you’re doing, I recommend a big serving of awareness paired with inquiry.

 

Bonus: Make friends!

Find people that lift you up and cheer you on. People who catch you when you fall and hold you in the hard times. I wouldn't be where I am without community. 

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Good luck on your yoga journey!

H


Need more guidance? 

Sign up for my free 5-day yoga training where you’ll get my complete step-by-step system for:

  • figuring out how to start a yoga practice that's right for you, 

  • understanding what all of the yoga props and accessories are for,

  • and, get actionable advice on how to begin your journey. 

Sign up and you'll receive the first email on Monday, July 9th!


My first experience in a sensory deprivation float tank

I have a confession to make…

I take things too seriously. There. I said it. There is this perfectionism inside of me that I keep coming up against in weird areas of my life.

Like when I play a board game, I have to make sure the cards are perfectly straight AND I have to follow the rules to a T. Why? No idea. If you saw my closet, car, or know me at all you’d know that I’m not that orderly and I sure as hell don’t follow rules to a T.

Or, when I want to try / learn something new, I put it off forever. The little voice in my head says, “If I can’t do it perfectly, I’m not going to do it at all. Because I’ll look stupid or embarrass myself or discover that I’m terrible at whatever it is.” This has stopped me from doing a lot of things.

It hasn’t been until recently that I started realizing this so I’ve been really curious about exploring this side of me.

When I went to Weightless Float Center last week I didn’t know I would encounter my relentless perfectionism. Like, how?! I was in the most relaxing setting ever and this damn “make it perfect” thought popped up!!! This makes me laugh because who in their right mind tries to float perfectly?

Let me give you a little play-by-play of what I encountered before, during, and after my experience:

I met the owner of Weightless back in JANUARY and he invited me to come check it out.

 

I procrastinated (clearly!) for some reason and kept letting other things stop me from going. Like “I’m so busy” “I’ll look to see if they have openings tomorrow” “Maybe I’ll go next week” “Oh I just shaved my legs or colored my hair” and so on and so on. Looking back, the 6 month gap in the invitation to actually going was my first sign that I was trying to make the experience “perfect”. You know, because I just had to go on the “perfect day” to try it out and make sure I read the FAQs 100 times so that I knew every detail of what to expect.

 

Over the last 6 months, I’ve realized this procrastination-caused-by-perfectionism thing in me and have been working on ways to become aware of it and do something about it that doesn’t keep me stuck. Like my #30DaysPlay challenge back in April or actually trying to dance around the house, for the sake of dancing around the house with no other goal than to let go and experience.

 

So, I finally made it to Weightless. Last week I looked at their website and booked a same day float mostly because I was tired of putting it off, tired of not knowing what it was like, and I definitely needed 90 minutes to myself to explore all of the above.  

I felt prepared and excited to be trying something new.

When I walked in I immediately felt at ease. I thought, “Thank God I’ve finally come here.” I was greeted with a smile and showed to my float room where I was given thorough, yet simple instructions on how to prep, float, and end my experience. FYI - there is nothing complicated about this experience ;)

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Once I had the room to myself I showered off and got in. The water was the perfect temperature (not cold and not hot, but just right - like a Goldielocks kinda feel). I reminded myself that I didn’t have to “do anything” and began my float.

Some time in I got a little antsy. Mostly because the voice in my head was saying, “Lay perfectly still and experience every second”. Not rigid at all, huh?

I stayed still for a while and my mind began to drift (thank goodness) and I thought about astronauts. Surely this is how it feels to float in space. Weightless. Limitless.

So cool.

Hailey Heishman sensory deprivation

I was starting to relax and it felt good. I started to wiggle around a bit and feel what it felt like to let go and just let my body be free. It reminded me of being a kid in the bathtub, only better.

I came back to stillness and really felt myself floating. I felt my weight and the “invisible support” below me (the salt water). Then I kind of felt… unsupported. Like I was tensing myself because I couldn’t feel below me. If you’ve ever done yoga and been in savasana there’s a feeling of melting into the floor. The hard floor below you is the support and you can fully release any tension that you’re holding.

I thought of this and wondered if I could still let go and trust that I was supported. It was a little intimidating at first. My body knew I was supported. The water was completely holding me up, but my mind thought, “What if I completely let go and sink?!” FYI - it’s not possible in the float tank - there is so much salt that you float like a little buoy.  So why did my mind feel this way? Why couldn’t I let go?

Because I like to be in control. I hold on, and stand up straight, and brace myself constantly. I don’t always trust that I won’t go under, fall, or be supported by my surroundings.

Don't worry, this wasn’t a “weird” realization for me in the moment though because I’ve thought about it a lot in regard to holding my breath under water or going upside down to practice handstand. It wasn’t new, but definitely a reminder that I have a hard time letting go. A hard time at trusting that I’ll be okay in the unknown.

My float continued on - a luscious 90 minutes - and I eventually let myself just float around like a little mermaid (careful to not splash salt water on my face) and it felt soooo good.

 

Thankfully, after your float you can hang out in the lounge as long as you’d like reflecting, reading, or just drinking tea. It’s seriously the best transition from float back to real world. And, I took some notes that I’d like to share.

Notes from my journal:

“Kind of like a baby in the womb. Like a rebirth.  Warm, free and supported.”

 

“What does support look like?

What does support feel like?

What would happen if I let go?

Complete surrender.

Can I trust to release?

The complete release of control…

To just float and do nothing else….?”

 

“What if I don’t take it so seriously? What if I choose fun over perfection? I wonder how much space would open up for me? How much space is perfection taking up?”

 

“I was very concerned about whether or not I was doing it "right" for a while. Like meditating or savasana in the beginning. Having a f*cking end goal. Expectations of how it should be. How exhausting.”

 

“I also felt dancy… flowy. Like a mermaid. And it reminded me of The Shape of Water, that movie we watched on the plane. Fluid. Sexy.”

 

“Warm. Weightless.

Here and nowhere.

No need or starvation.

What happens if I let go?

What if I lose control?”

 

I'm grateful for the space Weightless has created and this new adventure of floating that I'll continue to explore. My journey of letting go, trusting, and finding ease in new things. I’ll keep ya’ll posted.

If you’re interested in floating (and you should be) I went to Weightless Float Center in Louisville KY.

 


6 Yoga Poses to do at Work (without looking ridiculous!)

Want some simple ways to add more yoga to your workday? These movements, poses, and stretches can help you incorporate more movement and ease into your day whether you're sitting or standing (no mat required AND you don't even have to change your clothes).

 

My alarm used to go off at 5am every week day. A strict morning routine of working out and primping myself took me straight through sunrise until I landed at my desk around 9:30. From then until about 6 p.m. I would let the computer screen suck me in and lose all track of time to my work. Sound familiar?

I'd like to think that I moved more throughout the day than the average person but I still gained weight from having a desk job, found it hard to keep off, and even developed a serious lower back pain that I couldn't shake.

Now my daily routine looks a lot different because I left my 9 to 5 and work for myself, but it’s hard to forget the old routine when I constantly have people ask me how they can move more at their 9 to 5. It seems there's a bigger need for work / movement balance (kind like work / life balance I suppose) than I suspected.

I often hear “You’re lucky. I can’t quit my job” and “It’s easy for you, you have more time.” But guess what... we all have the same amount of time in the day and a little something called Choice. If you're reading this, you're probably at the point where you know you have to claim responsibility for yourself and actually start taking action to feel better.  

And even better, the solution isn’t quitting your job ;) I didn't quit mine simply because of the environment. You can keep your job and start to feel better, but you have to be intentional with your self (a.k.a. that body you live in ).

“Sure, but what the heck does ‘be intentional with myself’ even mean?!”

I know, I know. There’s so much advice out there that says, “Just do more. Just move more!” and it's exhausting. Who honestly wants another to-do that they don't quite understand how to do crammed into their day?

Not you? Good, me either.

So let's cover some things you can actually do at work without drawing a ton of attention to yourself AND start to feel better. We’ll talk about standing and sitting because I know some of you have standing desks :)

6 yoga poses and movements to do during the work day

Standing Poses 

1. Tree Pose

While standing, bring the bottom of one foot to the opposite ankle, calf, or thigh (**do not rest your foot on the side of your knee**).

Keep your hips even (a.k.a. don't hike one hip up higher than the other).

Don't forget to do both sides ;)

Hailey Heishman tree pose

2. Extended Knee Raise

While standing, lift your knee and grab it with the same-side hand. Slowly guide your knee/hip open to the side. 

Keep your lifted foot flexed to help you balance.

Don't forget to do both sides ;)

Hailey Heishman extended leg raise pose

3. Shoulder stretch

Find a wall or door frame, place the palm of your hand on it and slowly start to stretch away from your hand opening your chest forward. Take this stretch nice and slow!

Don't forget to do both sides, and breathe.

Hailey Heishman shoulder stretch

Seated Poses

4. Cat & Cow

Place your hands on your knees or thighs. Exhale and round your back as you slowly curl forward (cat), inhale and arch your back for cow. Slowly move through these poses with your inhales and exhales. 

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5. Neck circles

Sit up straight with a flat back (don't slouch): 1. drop your chin toward your chest 2. slowly bring your right ear to right shoulder (keep your shoulders even) 3. Slowly look up and drop your head back behind you 4. then bring your left ear toward left shoulder

**Drop force the movements, just let gravity do it's thing and breathe. You can hold each position as long as you'd like and go through them all as long as you desire. 

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6. Seated pigeon pose

Bring your ankle over the opposite leg just above your knee. Keep your foot flexed to stay active in the stretch and breathe. You can lean forward a little for a deeper stretch if you want. 

Do both sides ;) 

 

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Additional Advice and Tips:

1. Morning movement - first thing when you wake up, go through some simple movements to wake your body up. This can be "structured" Sun Salutations, or just moving with what feels good. 

2. Mountain pose and forward fold - if you don't mind so much bending over around your coworkers (which sounds quite strange to type and read, but you get what I mean, right?), Mountain pose and forward fold are wonderful poses to bring life back into your all-day sitting butt ;) 

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3. Lunges - Again, if you don't mind being a little more open with your movement initiatives, feel free to do lunges on your way to the restroom at work or anywhere you're walking to really :) 

4. Squats - Wherever you are, stop & squat. Just 10 squats will perk you right up! I used to challenge myself to do 10 squats every time I went to the bathroom at work (I drink a lot of water, so this was quite often). 

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5. Make up fun games for yourself, like my squat game above. 


Want to incorporate more yoga and movement into your life?

Sign up for my free 5-day yoga training where you’ll get my complete step-by-step system for:

  • figuring out how to start a yoga practice that's right for you, 

  • understanding what all of the yoga props and accessories are for,

  • and, get actionable advice on how to begin your journey. 

Once you sign up you will receive the first email: "Is Yoga Right For Me?" on Monday, July 9th!