What are yoga props? How do you use them, and which poses are they especially good for?
There’s a common misconception in yoga that props are for beginners. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Any sensible Yogi knows props are also for the pros! They give us extra support so we can be truly comfy; they deepen postures so we can go further in an asana; they help with injuries, stiffness or soreness by taking off any additional pressure on our joints; the list is endless. Props are essential to our everyday practice.
You’ll probably find the most props in a Restorative yoga class where they are used to cradle and protect your entire body in deep, restful poses, however, props can be used in any class for any number of reasons.
Bolsters are basically long, firm pillows. They are soft enough to make you incredibly comfortable, but firm enough to still offer support and hold your body securely. One of the simplest ways to use a bolster is under your knees in Savasana; it takes pressure off your knee joints and allows your lower back to relax. In Restorative Yoga you will be sure to use two under each leg in Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined butterfly) for a gentle hip opener. You can also use bolsters under your torso in Child’s pose, or even to sit on when meditating helping to keep your spine straight. If you don’t have a bolster at home, use a firm pillow, a few rolled up towels or a blanket.
Blocks and Bricks
Block or brick? We agree, it can be a bit confusing. They come in various shapes and sizes. These bricks/blocks are usually made out of foam, wood, or cork. The best thing about them are that they can essentially provide an extension to your arms! If you can’t touch your toes, no problem! Grab a block and bring the ground a little closer to you. Half Moon or Standing Splits feel much more stable and balanced with a brick and they help to keep your chest open. If we’re always trying to touch the floor, our upper body can sometimes collapse down meaning our core is less engaged. Don’t have a block at home? Get creative – use some hardback books or tupperware containers!
Like blocks (or bricks), straps can essentially extend the length of your arms. They are especially useful in postures such as seated forward fold – can’t reach your toes? Just loop the strap around your feet and pull yourself forward to stretch out your hamstrings. For other ways to use a strap, read this great article. Don’t feel the pressure to rush out and buy a strap, a scarf, belt or even a pair of yoga leggings will do the job for the time being.
Not just for getting cosy in Savasana, blankets can offer extra padding or cushioning for our joints. Try placing a blanket under your knees in a low lunge or any kneeling posture such as Camel. hem for padding under any joints that want extra love, like between your calves and hamstrings in virasana, or hero pose. In Restorative Yoga when poses are held for long periods of time and our bodies are still, blankets aren’t just useful, they’re abundantly encouraged. Keeping our body warm means our muscles can relax that little bit further. There’s nothing special about a ‘yoga blanket’ just use any blanket you have already, or even a large towel.
The props listed above are the most common in yoga classes today, but there are many more. Eye pillows are insanely relaxing (especially when they’re filled with lavender). Chairs can be used for people who need extra help as they recover from an injury or suffer with mobility problems. Try placing wedges under your heels, especially in Down Dog and Malasana (yogi squat). Meditation cushions make long periods of sitting down exponentially more comfortable. And, the prop we always forget is a prop, the yoga mat!
Written by Regan Spencer.