If you’ve been to a yoga class or two, you’ve probably seen lots of different kinds of mats, colorful blocks, tangled straps, folded and rolled blankets, and giant cushions called bolsters. There is no denying that props are useful but how necessary are they?
My perspective here is a little all over the place. On one hand, I’m a self-discovered, self practice yogi. I didn’t even have a mat for the first few months of my yoga journey, let alone other props. And my ideal practice is still just my body under the sun, with my toes connected to the Earth – no mat, no props, only myself and the universe as a whole.
On the other hand, I’m a yoga teacher and feel my students can benefit so much from having access to props, especially blocks and straps. These can give yogis more access to poses and build confidence and flexibility. Also, my favorite kind of yoga to practice is restorative, which involves more props than movement. In restorative, props are used for total support of the physical body. This leads to amazing rest and relaxation. Don’t worry – a post all about restorative yoga is in the works!
But I feel people can get a little too caught up in the props, thinking they cannot practice yoga without adequate propping. Also, people often think they need the nicest, most expensive props on the market in order to get the benefit. This is where I think the yoga commercialism comes in again, making us believe that we need more than we do to get what we want out of our practice. I will always believe that all you need for a yoga practice is a body, oxygen, and an open mind. Yoga poses provide enough modifications to make props unnecessary, but they are undeniably nice to have. However, if you don’t have access to props, no worries! Everything around you is a prop. Your kitchen table, couch cushions, thick books, scarves, pillows, blankets, the list goes on and on.
Because I think props are important in yoga class, especially with beginners which is primarily who I teach, I have invested in some props. I will share the props I found worth it and just some of the ways I use them. Also, I have opted for the cheaper version of all of these props. Brands like GAIM, YogaAccessories.com, etc. It’s OK (even better in my opinion) to just have the bare minimum!
Blocks. These are probably the most commonly used props and for good reason. They bring the floor closer to the yogi. I sometimes use blocks under my hands in a lunge to keep my spine long. They are also handy to place under the upper back, passively opening the heart. I squeeze them between my inner thighs in inversions and deep back bends to ensure alignment and proper engagement. There are infinite ways to use blocks!
Strap. I love my strap! I use my strap for intense but lazy hamstring stretching, opening my shoulders, but my favorite way to use my strap is when I work on flipping the grip in certain backbends. Here’s a link to a tutorial that uses the strap in Dancer’s. You can also use this for King Pigeon, etc.
Bolster. A bolster is basically a big pillow. I love laying back with the bolster up against my hips, opening my heart. It’s nice for pretty much any restorative shape like child’s pose, spinal twists, side opening, etc.
Wheel. The wheel is definitely not necessary but it is really fun. It’s good for heart opening, core work, even adding a balance challenge to your practice. I like to roll around on my wheel for a little bit every morning, loosening my chest. I also use it to work on piking and pressing to handstand or even headstand. I even sometimes stand on the top of the wheel, just to challenge my balance in standing poses like tadasana.
Eye Pillow. I pretty much always use my eye pillow any time I’m laying down on my mat. It’s great for sensory withdrawal and the added weight feels sooo good. Many eye pillows are also scented, giving some aromatherapy to the practice. I made my eye pillow myself in a workshop! I’ll be posting a tutorial on the blog at some point so stay tuned!
Blanket. I like my blanket to sit on, elevating my hips and gibing a little cush to my tush. This especially helps me to sit longer in meditation. I also use my blanket as a blanket…over my entire body in savasana, covering my legs or feet, etc. A rolled blanket is nice underneath the back or neck.
This is not even close to all the props out there! There are aerial ribbons, bands, wedges, sandbags, balls, rings, and the list goes on. This is a fun aspect of yoga – we get to pick our own things that resonate with us and our individual practices!
At the end of the day, props rule but less is more! Don’t stress about acquiring new things – you already have all that you need. Just be creative, use what you have access to and get comfy and supported 🙂