Key buys for de-stressing yoga session in comfort of your own living room
These seven quality pieces of gear will aid your stretching and bending without having to join a trendy studio, says Liz Connor
If you've ever felt stressed to the point of overwhelm (statistics suggest that a staggering three in four Brits do, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation), then you might have tried yoga as a solution for bringing things back into balance.
You only have to look at the influx of trendy yoga studios and high street brands popping up around the country for proof of its booming popularity, with leisure centres, schools and even workplaces all adopting forms of the practice.
In fact, a study by Lancaster University and Cambridge University Press recently found that 'yoga' is among one of the top 15 most popular words used in British society today.
Yoga was developed in India some 5,000 years ago and is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophical traditions. As well as being great for building strength and improving flexibility, yoga is fiercely tied into the mind and studies have found it can have a positive effect on your mental health.
However, in recent times - from boozy beer yoga to comical dog yoga - the practice has had some pretty zany takes over the years. But if you just fancy giving some regular Hatha practice a go (that's the most common form of yoga, FYI), we've rounded up some nifty kit for getting you started from the comfort of your own living room...
1. Gaiam Yoga Block, £11.99, Johnlewis.com
If you're looking to improve your flexibility, a foam block is a great prop for easing the body into more challenging poses. You can slide one under your sacroiliac joint for a greater stretch during a bridge or place it at the sit bone to help support the hips during Pigeon pose.
A block can also shorten the distance between your hand and the floor, helping you to balance without injury in more advanced poses like Half Moon. This one from Gaiam is lightweight, gentle on joints and comes in a cool grey.
2. SportFX logo bra, £19.99, Sportfx.com
There's nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable and worrying about ill-fitting kit when you're moving through a range of different poses (there's always the chance you might encounter an embarrassing mid-Downward Dog slip!), so it's always a sensible idea to invest in a suitable sports bra.
We're a big fan of a v-neck style, which not only looks flattering, but keeps everything firmly in place.
This one from SportFX also has an elasticated chest band for extra staying power.
3. Men's Patagonia M's Mahnya fleece pants - Feather Grey, £60, Yogamatters.com
With so many different yoga brands on the market, shopping for the right pair of pants can be a bit of a head-scratcher. This pair from Patagonia are a great option for guys who aren't sure where to start.
Made from a comforting blend of organic cotton, polyester and elastane fleece, they're super-soft and comfortable to move in. Sitting low on the hips, they also have a slim fit at the foot, so your flow won't be interrupted by any loose fabric getting in the way.
4. Homedics stretch back stretching mat, £249.99, Lookfantastic.com
It's no secret that making time to stretch can work wonders for the body and soul.
If you're looking for a super gentle way to reap the benefits of a yoga practice, this smart mat is a great way to release the tensions of the day when you get home.
It's fitted with several air chambers that inflate in sequence to encourage your back to stretch, release and relax. It comes with four pre-programmed choreographed sequences that can be customised so you get just the right level of intensity.
5. AmazonBasics yoga towel, £11.22, Amazon.co.uk
A sweaty, slippery yoga mat is never fun to deal with. If you're a yogi that likes to add some heat to your practice, it's worthwhile investing in a non-slip towel - it'll provide a soft and stable surface for your hands, while soaking up any excess moisture on the mat. This one can be chucked into the washing machine afterwards and used again and again.
6. Google Home Hub, £139, Store.google.com
A Google Home Hub isn't just for reading out the weather forecast and playing music - it can also coach you through your yoga practice, whatever level you might be at.
Simply ask it to fire up a yoga class and it'll stream a follow-along tutorial from YouTube (we love Yoga With Adrienne's 30 Days of Yoga challenge). If you often forget to make time to stretch, you can also ask Google to remind you to work-out at a specific time of the day, like first thing in the morning.
7. Domyos organic cotton yoga strap, £3.99, Decathlon.co.uk
One of the hardest things about starting out in yoga is feeling like you're nowhere near as bendy as the super-fit yogis you see on Instagram.
Don't let this stop you though - there's actually far more to it than being bendy. But if one of your beginner goals is to be able to touch your toes, a yoga strap can help to open up tight hamstrings and gently get you where you need to be over time.
With a straight back, you simply need to place the middle of the strap around the balls of your feet and gently pull yourself forward so you really feel the stretch. After a few months of regular practice, you might actually surprise yourself by being able to grab your toes with your fingers.