When I first started attending yoga classes I would wear some old stretchy trousers and a vest and just rock up hoping there was a space. After some time I sought out an eco-friendly mat and then purchased a strap that rarely got used. If there was yoga fashion (which there must of been) I wasn't aware of it and it didn't effect my experience of the class or myself in the class, which was medium busy most of the time. Over the past few (say 5) years as the world of wellbeing has exploded into the mainstream there has also been a massive explosion of well being kit! So much fashionable Yoga stuff! Stuff that looks pretty and helps us look hot but feel cool while we’re ‘doing’ yoga- but who knew we needed all this equipment to re-connect to our essential nature?
How do we feel about this, how useful is this stuff and and how well intended are all these ‘cant do without’ accessories? There is no doubt that as humans we like to hunt out, gather and adorn- with things that can help make our life easier and things that we really don’t need. Who has a pair of jazzy yoga leggings and more than one mat..? hands up, me too and I like them- the mats more than the leggings.
And this is the issue- yoga is the systematic process of going back to the source of pure consciousness - essentially towards wholeness. This has been traditionally explored by abstaining from excessive consumptions, increasing mindful awareness and observing non- harm (ahimsa) to self and others. Our collective and individual recent evolutionary experience’s have shown us directly the harm of consumeristic patterns- on how we attribute value to ourselves, to things and our sense of self worth and what excess and waste does to the planet.
Mat spray, hip water bottles, toe socks, yoga sweat wipes, wheels and precious stone mala’s are all up there on the ‘must have’ lists of what you simply cant do with out as a modern yogi. Some of this stuff can be useful and make life a little more convenient - especially if your hitting the road for some yoga festival action (more of these too!) and need to pack light. Definitely a travel mat can make a big difference to how your shoulders feel at the end of a long journey, and stepping onto it will help soothe all the kinks from the day.
But who is doing the soothing- is it the travel mat, the presence of your Lapis Jade mala and breathable tank or is it you just being, just breathing? Do these objects make you appear a good yogi, living the yoga life (?) or is it very clever marketing disguising materialism creating and nurturing a need through our human weakness- desire. Not that desire is bad, in-fact desire is a motivating force that can lead to some great achievements - though it can ultimately bring us pain if we are bound to the fruit of those achievements by our ego.
The consciousness of self-mastery in one who is free from craving from objects seen or heard about is non-attachment . Yoga Sutras .book 1, thread 15.
It takes a strong will ( still working on mine) to not be susceptible to this kind of sneaky self- love based promotion and this is exactly the kind of inner strength that yoga seeks to create. It is innate within all of us, but sometimes hidden under so much layers of non essential stuff- bought or absorbed that it takes a huge, guided and honest effort to strip back and to truly become comfortable with ‘less is more’.
Do we need less ? For most people the answer is yes- we all can be familiar with the weight of having to much clutter. So our minds also need to cleared of the idea that to ‘start or become this i need this (insert piece of i.e activewear) ’: a refresh, reset and then hopefully a recycle is essential.
I would also like to extend this notion to those who have just started on the teaching path amidst all of the pressurised social yoga hype: yoga is not just about feeling good all the time and telling other people how they can feel good too.
Yoga is a process of increasing awareness and attention through connection ( though some would say mastery) of body, breath and mind to become a liberated being- Jivanmukta. This slow process is going within towards the true naked, neutral self which is un-coloured by fashion, fads and marketing. A true yogi is not impressionable and radiates soul-force energy. They are austere with an inner vibrancy which is always relevant to the now.
So what is an Essential Yoga Tool Kit ? Really all you need is you and your good intention. You don't even need a mat, you don't need a whole lot of time and you don't need £80 quid leggings and a bottle of mat wash. Please don't think that you do!
The most valuable thing to remember is to feel the breath- listen to it and feel it in as many moments as you can. This will slow you down creating more time and opportunity to feel. Feel your breath in connection to your heart and drop your awareness deeper within- the heart needs no accessories to know its truth.
Explore to find a teacher who can guide you humbly and clearly in a way that resonates and moves you. Don’t worry about the hype and gloss. Yoga is for life, for everyone, it doesn't matter what your wearing, where you go to class and what asana you may do ( that isn't the only path!).
Below are some questions that may help you discover if you need to update or even throw out your current kit!
Are you becoming more connected to what serves yourself and others through expanded intuition?
Is it easier to ‘just be’ for some time with full attention on just being?
Has there been a shift in what brings you Joy?
Can you start to see beyond your thoughts becoming more self aware ?
Are you moving towards and increasing your capacity for stillness ?