International Day of Yoga: Everything you need to start practicing

Each year, 21 June marks International Day of Yoga, an annual event created in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly.

It aims to raise awareness of the benefits of yoga which according to the NHS include: increased strength, flexibility and balance, as well as helping to relieve high blood pressure and aches and pains.

Celebrating the practice of yoga with an annual event was first proposed by the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in his 2014 address to the 69th General Assembly, where he said: “Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action… a holistic approach that is valuable to our health and our well-being. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature.”

The theme for 2022 is “yoga for humanity”, keeping in mind the ongoing significant mental, physical and emotional strife caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The UN describes yoga as a powerful tool to aid physical and mental wellbeing – as the ancient discipline teaches mindfulness, moderation and perseverance, and can help encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle. The UN has created free resources to guide you through meditation and yoga sessions on its wellness portal.

Yoga is a great way to keep active and improve mobility, with little equipment needed – it’s also simple enough to start at home on your living room floor. We’ve compiled the best of the essentials you’ll need to kickstart your mindfulness journey.

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Yoga mats and blocks

Along with preventing you sliding about the floor, yoga mats are also a way to carve out your personal space, think of them like a mini studio.

Thanks to the rise of online yoga and home practice, the mat market is flourishing as we discovered in our guide to the best yoga mats. They’re also no longer dominated by mass-produced mats designed to be sold as wholesale to studios, and modern designs are thick and luxurious with alignment grids.

One of our favourites is Lululemon’s reversible yoga mat (£59, Lululemon.co.uk).While praising it as being longer and wider than most standard mats, our tester also said that “what makes this mat rank so highly is how grippy it is”.

They added that even through the sweatiest of sessions, they still managed to feel rooted in their poses, thanks to the mat’s smooth, super-sticky polyurethane top layer: “Your hands and feet won’t budge.”

If you prefer a yoga mat with more padding, you can flip it over and use the spongy rubber side, which is gentler on the knees.

A yoga block is a helpful tool if you need a little boost to reach harder positions. We’d recommend the Lululemon lift and lengthen yoga block (£18, Lululemon.co.uk), made in a squishy foam texture.

A yoga block is a useful aide to help you reach trickier positions

It is slightly taller, wider and thinner than most bricks, which makes it more versatile. Designed to be used both on its top or its side, there’s a support level for everyone, whether you struggle to get anywhere near your toes in a standing forward bend and need the floor to come to you, or you’re centimetres away from the ground in a triangle and just need a little boost.

Best of all are the sloped edges and soft foam, which make this a comfortable prop to support yourself in backbends like bridge pose.

Yoga clothes

Kit yourself out in comfortable fabrics that will wash well, be squat-proof, have enough give to help you reach all your positions without discomfort nor bunch or sag with continued use.

For women, the Sweaty Betty super soft 7/8 yoga leggings (£85, Sweatybetty.com) were a favourite of our reviewers. New for 2022, our writer found they stayed true to their name and were indeed “super soft”.

“Thicker than both the brand’s power workout leggings and zero gravity running leggings, they’re incredibly high-waisted and make you feel immediately supported and sucked in,” our testers said.

That high waist also means you won’t have to stop mid pose to pull your leggings up, while the soft fabric allows more freedom through every transition. “They’re arguably our favourite Sweaty Betty leggings ever – which is quite the statement,” they added.

Looking for a top half? We’ve got plenty of options in this round-up of yoga tops. One of our favourite affordable options was New Balance’s transform perfect tank (£25, Newbalance.com). A cross between the tighter form-fitting tees and looser-fitting tops, our testers “found it offered the flexibility we needed while still looking super stylish”.

While the classic racerback and New Balance branding are attractive, “it’s not just style over substance”, according to our reviewers. “Like many of the products, the brand’s bespoke technology helps to wick sweat away from the skin, keeping you cool and dry during sessions, while the flatlock seams help to prevent any rubbing,” they added.

Virtual classes and live streams to join

If you’re new to yoga and want some guidance to help perfect positions and technique, try following a session with Yoga With Adriene, one of the biggest yoga YouTube channels, fronted by instructor Adriene Mishler.

She leads free, very straightforward sessions on her channel to her six million subscribers, creating challenges such as 30 Days Of Yoga or poses for specific needs, like chronic pain or for cramps. You’ll also find simple poses to imitate posted on her Instagram, too.

When lockdown hit, many yoga teachers began doing online classes and live streams, which meant you could still feel part of a community, even when you worked out alone in your home.

Fitness app Fiit continues to offer easy-to-follow, at-home workouts led by experienced trainers. The yoga sessions comprise bodyweight moves, breath work and mobility in 25- or 40-minute chunks for £10 a month.

If you don’t have a big TV to connect your yoga classes too, use your iPad or phone propped up on the mat instead

There are hundreds of classes to pick from, with a dedicated section for beginners so you don’t feel out of your depth.

Live streams are another way to participate in a class from the comfort of your living room. London yoga studio, Dig Me Fitness hosts live streams of HIIT and yoga sessions throughout the day on Instagram that you can join before you sit down to work, on your lunch break, and once your workday is over with, accompanied remotely by hundreds of others tuning in too, while still going at your own pace.

If you miss the live class, you can still catch up by watching the class on its Instagram feed that’s posted once it’s finished, so you can follow along at your own pace at a time that suits you.

Meditation

The benefits of meditation have been explored in various scientific studies over the years, with recent research revealing that mindfulness can be effective for easing chronic pain.

There are plenty of tools at your disposal too, some are free too, and can be as simple as a mindfulness app that will help you get into a comfortable meditation routine or a relaxing scented candle. When searching to find the right app, it’s worth thinking about what you need as well as what you like. If you can’t stand the narrator’s voice, for instance, then you’re going to find it hard to relax.

If you want motivational messages sent through when you know you’re going to be stressed, there’s an app that will do that.

In our IndyBest round-up of the best mindfulness apps, we tested a mix of free and paid apps, all promising to soothe stressed minds. Coming out on top was the Calm app (Free one week trial, then £28.99 a year), which you can download for iOS here, download for Android here.

As soon as you open it up, you’re greeted with the soothing sounds of the outdoors. As well as guided Daily Calm sessions, which help you unwind and refocus your attention, there are also programmes for intermediate and advanced users.

For long-seated poses and meditation at the end of your yoga practice, this Complete Unity meditation cushion (£59, Completeunityyoga.com) comes highly rated from our guide to yoga equipment for home workouts.

It’s a unique and beautiful “zafu” (or meditation cushion) made and designed by a family-run company. The height and firmness – we tested the firmer, buckwheat-filled cushion – gives exactly the right amount of lift to help support you in an easy cross-legged pose or any variation on lotus you feel comfortable with, while the gentle give of the stuffing means you can find your perfect level of tilt.

Our reviewer has always struggled with pins and needles during long seated poses or meditation but had no problems at all with this pillow. Use it at the beginning and end of practice to snatch a few moments of calm, or for seated pranayama (breathing work). We loved the “meadow of enlightenment” pattern with its subtle wildflowers – it’s so pretty, you won’t mind leaving it out after class.

Aromatherapy oils

Consider introducing aromatherapy essential oils for added relaxation. This Aromatherapy Associates the atomiser pure essential oil ceramic diffuser (£120, Johnlewis.com) was our favourite oil diffuser.

“Starting with the design, this is a ceramic diffuser topped with a metallic plate from which a little hole distributes the essential oil micro-fine mist,” said our reviewer. While atomising, a soft light at the top of the diffuser switches on, which our tester liked at bedtime “when the relaxing blend coupled with the halo of light felt like a lovely wind-down ritual”.

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Read our guide on how to start practising yoga at home


Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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