With the ever increasing popularity of yoga, it is only natural that more and more yoga related products and accessories have become available in the commercial marketplace. Yoga devotees can buy everything from a $5 dollar yoga strap to $120 yoga pants. While it is easy to spend lots of money on yoga stuff, a modest investment in a few yoga props is one of the smartest yoga moves you can make. Selecting the right yoga props will do much to help you practice at home safely and effectively. Here is an overview of the most useful yoga props.
Yoga straps can be thought of as arm lengtheners. For many yoga students, there are poses where shoulder or hamstring flexibility won’t allow hands to meet behind the back or reach as far as the feet. Using a strap allows yogis to safely perform the actions of the final pose even when their body won’t let them get all the way there.
Straps can also be used in restorative or resting poses to hold the legs together or in a certain position. This helps the body to relax and release without having to exert effort to maintain a position or the appropriate alignment.
Yoga straps are made from woven fabric that is strong and does not stretch. There are different types of buckles and fasteners, but length is more important. An eight foot strap is more useful than a six foot strap, particularly for tall people.
If yoga straps are arm lengtheners, then yoga blocks are floor raisers. When an arm cannot reach all the way to the floor, a yoga block is used. This allows less flexible people to stay in poses safely and with less discomfort. Like straps, blocks also have a role in many restorative yoga poses. They are used to support various parts of the body such as the legs, back or head at the appropriate height for each pose.
Blocks come in different sizes and materials. Opt for four inch thick blocks rather than the thinner version. Materials include foam, cork and wood. If you choose foam, get a dense foam; some foam blocks are too soft. Cork is a good choice if you like to use ecologically sustainable materials as part of your yoga philosophy.
Other than mats, yoga blankets may be the most widely used prop. For many seated yoga poses, blankets give a little extra height, allowing the legs to release and providing lift for the lower back. Again, this helps people with tight hamstrings. Two or three blankets under the shoulders and upper arms for shoulderstand is one of the best uses for yoga blankets. They can also be used in conjunction with blocks for restorative poses or as a cover to stay warm during savasana.
Woven Mexican blankets are the most common and affordable for yoga. Wool yoga blankets are also a good choice. It is important for yoga blankets to be firm so they provide an even, level foundation.
If you are a yoga practitioner with a regular home practice, a yoga bolster is a nice addition to your collection of yoga props. Though you may not use it every time you practice, a bolster is particularly useful for restorative yoga poses. Supported bridge pose, legs-up-the-wall pose and savasana with a bolster under the knees are all good uses for bolsters.
Go for a larger size bolster; the small ones are less useful. Both round and rectangular shapes have their benefits; the choice is up to you.
Miscellaneous Yoga Props
There are a number of additional yoga props that have value in certain situations. Some enjoy using lightweight eye pillows during savasana and pranayama. Folding metal chairs and wood benches of various sizes can be used to support the body in any number of poses. Often, a piece of furniture you already have in your house can work as a yoga prop.
The best way to learn about different yoga props is through experience. Find a studio with an assortment of props and teachers that know how to use them. After several yoga classes you will begin to find what props work best for you and your body. Though you should not become over reliant on them, you will find that careful use of yoga props deepens your practice, improves your poses and increases the benefits of yoga.