Advancing your inner yogi

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As yoga's popularity grows, so does the number of helpful yoga accessories.

It can seem like just about everyone is practicing yoga these days. In fact, according to the latest Yoga in America study produced by Yoga Journal, the number of Americans who practice has increased nearly 30 percent in the past four years. Enthusiasts, including athletes like soccer star Hope Solo and Olympic gold-medal swimmer Rebecca Soni, turn to yoga to improve their flexibility, conditioning, breath awareness and mental discipline.

While all you really need to strike a pose is a yoga mat, these five accessories will help take your practice to the next level.

Yoga blocks

Yoga blocks are a staple in every studio. Blocks can help those who may be a bit less flexible to enter a yoga pose safely while maintaining proper alignment -- think blocks under your hands in a forward fold to assist tight hamstrings. Blocks also help ensure that you are properly engaging your muscles. For example, place a block between your legs in chair pose to fire up your legs and protect your knees. Gaiam's Cork Yoga Blocks (Set of two, $19.98) are heavier than typical foam yoga blocks, providing more stability. They offer great grip and traction, and are made from all-natural materials.

yogitoes Vapor rSkidless Yoga Towel

Nothing is worse in a yoga class than slipping around on a sweaty mat or sweaty hands, making it impossible to hold poses such as downward-facing dog. The rSkidless yoga towel ($68) is a mat-sized yoga towel. When placed over your mat, the silicon nubs on one side grip the mat and keep it in place. The soft, absorbent material prevents slipping no matter how much you move or sweat in your Vinyasa or Bikram class.

Guroo Sleeves

Guroo Sleeves ($39) by Guroo Active were developed to help all levels of sweaty yogis achieve and hold twists, arm balances and inversions like crow and tripod headstand. Worn on your upper arms, the cushioned, textured surface provides grip between the skin and yoga pants. The fabric pulls sweat to the outside of the sleeve and provides light compression to increase circulation to the upper arms.

Yoga Paws

Yoga Paws "Elite" Full Set ($39.95) are nonslip grips that fit over your hands and feet. They are made from recycled rubber yoga mats and have a breathable mesh and moisture-absorbent lining. The extra padding on the hands also offers your wrists added support. Best part? They allow you to practice yoga anywhere -- on the road when traveling or on the water for SUP yoga -- without having to lug your mat with you.

MatPak

When you do have to carry your mat with you, the MatPak by YogaRat ($49.99) is a convenient way to transport it. You can wear the MatPak like a backpack or over one shoulder. It's constructed with featherweight, water-resistant material made from recycled plastic bottles. You can carry your towel, keys, wallet, phone and more in the large zippered pockets and a water bottle in the outer mesh pocket. The ventilated main compartment accommodates up to a 26" x 85" yoga mat.

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