Earlier this week, I wrote about how I used to be reluctant to incorporate any sort of yoga prop in my practice. I mean, I still remember the horror I felt when a yoga teacher stuck a wedge-shaped block under my heels when I was in a yogi squat. I wanted to shout, “I CAN DO IT!” even though my raised heels proclaimed otherwise.
Ten years later, I see blocks, straps, and bolsters as near-necessities for my practice. In my home, I have: three foam blocks (and I have my eye on another set); scarves that I use as yoga straps; a meditation cushion that doubles as a bolster in a pinch; and several substantial blankets. In a few days, I’ll also have a yoga wheel (hopefully I’ll have more on that in a future post). I never saw myself as basically having my own personal studio, but having experienced the benefits of these instruments in the studio, I knew I’d love to use them in my home practice.
I’ve put together some thoughts and recommendations on a few of my favorite yoga props. I hope you enjoy!
Blocks offer support in restorative poses like restorative bridge, bring the ground a bit closer in poses like triangle, and offer great grounding beneath the hands when you’re trying to nail jump-throughs. Because you’re probably using blocks in poses that demand stability, you’ll want a block that is dense and firm, with a little give; I’ve found that wooden blocks, while stable, are very, very uncomfortable in restorative poses. Manduka and Hugger Mugger both have great multipurpose foam blocks. Gaiam makes a less expensive version, but I’ve found them to be so light I often become unsteady in certain poses. I own three Gaiam blocks, and they’re perfect under a hip in half-pigeon, but much too light for jump-throughs. I’m actually planning to purchase some Hugger Mugger blocks soon so I have a nice firm set of blocks during my practice.
Straps, scarves, or hand towels
I often use straps when I’m trying to close the space between my hand and my foot in poses like in dancer, bow, or standing leg raise.
I actually don’t have a strap preference — just about any one will do — and I often use a scarf or hand towel in lieu of strap.
If you’re using a strap, remember to take slow, mindful moments. It’s easy to over-stretch muscles, particularly when you throw balancing into the mix as well. Stop when you feel pain, or when your muscles offer you firm resistance.
I. Love. BOLSTERS! They are perfect for restorative poses and for providing support in seated positions. I have a meditation cushion (zafu) from Manduka that I use as a bolster. I was quite reluctant to buy a zafu – it seemed like an oversized, overpriced pillow. However, my zafu offers much more comfort and support than a regular pillow. Filled with buckwheat hulls, the cushion makes for a surprisingly comfortable body-conforming seat. I use the zafu during morning mediation, and as support under my belly in poses like frog or seated forward fold. Though I don’t see my myself getting a bolster any time soon, I’m very glad to have ended up with an endlessly useful zafu.
Blankets are an oft-forgotten tool. This might be because many studios don’t offer blankets or because students are grossed out by using community blankets.
However, a substantial blanket can be quite useful. Place an unfolded blanket under bony knees for added cushion, and use a folded blanket in forward folds to raise your seat and ease the stretch, or under your shoulders in shoulder stand if you’re developing the strength and flexibility necessary to enter the pose safely. Blankets are definitely part of my home practice — I especially love to snuggle up under a nice warm blanket during my favorite pose: savasana.
Thank you for reading! I hope you’ll be inspired to try a prop in your home or studio practice after today’s post. On Friday, I’ll share a few of my favorite prop- friendly poses. Until then – namaste!