When I first started yoga, I viewed props as “crutches” to help me as a beginner and then leave behind as I developed my yoga skills. This idea was wrong in at least two ways. First, props aren’t crutches, but rather tools to help you deepen the pose and achieve proper alignment. Second, props can be used by any yogi, no matter the level of experience. This blog will outline four basic props and how to easily incorporate them into your practice. The good news is, these props can often be exchanged for common household items, allowing you to try them out in poses before spending money on the real deal.
Yoga blocks can be used for balance and support in many poses. You can use books instead of blocks if you don’t have blocks at home. Make sure to play around with different heights to find the best one for you, it may vary depending on the pose.
When To Use Blocks
Any pose that makes you wish the floor would come to meet you halfway is a good pose to use a block. For example, in Triangle pose, place a block on the outside of your front leg and rest your bottom hand on the block. Try starting with the block at its tallest, then in time work on getting it to the middle, or lowest height before being able to reach the floor with your bottom hand. You can also use blocks to help with balance, such as placing a block under one or both hands for support in Warrior III if you are unable to balance with your arms outstretched in front of you.
Finally, you can use blocks as support under the back or legs. For example, under the sacrum in Bridge Pose, or under each leg in Cobbler’s Pose. Adding extra support allows the muscles to relax into the pose more easily. A few more of the many options for using blocks include: place under both hands in Camel Pose or Wide-Angle Forward Fold, use the lowest height under both hands in Upward Facing Dog to take strain off the wrists, use as a foot stand for balance in Eagle Pose, or place under your seat in Pigeon Pose. In my opinion, the block is the most versatile prop and is a great one to try for your first prop.
Pillows And Bolsters
From small pillows to large bolsters, the extra cushioning is great for restorative poses, which are typically held for several minutes. As with blocks, you may need to try different sizes to find the best support in each pose.
When To Use Pillows and Bolsters
Pillows can provide extra cushion or space that can make many poses more accessible or more comfortable. In some poses, you may find you need more support from a bolster if your pillows are too flat or small. Place pillows or bolsters under each leg in Reclined Goddess Pose or Cobbler’s Pose. Place under your seat in Hero Pose or Pigeon Pose. Rest your legs on pillows in Reclined Supine Twist. Finally, using a pillow for its main purpose, as a pillow under your head in Legs up the Wall or Savasana.
Straps come in a wide variety of lengths and styles for purchase. At-home solutions include ties, scarves, or belts. Straps will help you deepen stretches without compromising the position of your back and can be used in many poses.
I love using straps for my tight hamstrings. In Seated Forward Fold, wrap a strap around the balls of your feet and hold one side of the strap in each hand; gently pull yourself toward your feet with the straps, keeping a straight back rather than hunching over to force the pose.
In Cow Face Pose, if you are unable to bind your arms behind your back, hold one end of the strap in each hand and slowly wrap the strap around your wrist to bring the hands closer together with time. Use a strap to modify King Pigeon or Dancer Pose by looping it around the front of your foot, just below the toes and holding the other end with your hands to slowly bring your bent leg closer.
A folded blanket is an easy prop to have on hand and can be used in more ways than you might think.
When To Use A Blanket
Use a folded blanket as support under the knees in any pose with the knee on the mat such as Low Lunge, Cat/Cow, or Gate Pose. A folded blanket under the wrists, with the wrists being higher than the fingertips, can reduce wrist pain. Use a folded blanket under the wrists in Upward Facing Dog, Downward Dog, Cat/Cow, or any pose where you put weight into the hands with your wrists at a 90-degree angle. A folded towel under your seat in Hero Pose or Child’s Pose will work if a pillow is unavailable or too large. Finally, use a blanket to be warm and cozy during savasana.
Find Other Props To Expand Your Practice
These are only four types of the many yoga props available. A quick search of the web will reveal that there are lots of other options you can use as needed. For example, sand bags, eye pillows, wheels, wedges, gripping gloves or socks, the list goes on. Whatever props you use, use them with confidence, and know that they are great tools to further your yoga practice rather than a sign of weakness.
Carly Williams, YogaRenew 200 HR Graduate
I am a full-time working mother and wife. I have been practicing yoga at home for many years. I started yoga because it can be done at home on my own schedule. I stuck with yoga because it benefits the mind as well as the body. I recently finished the 200-hr YTT program offered by YogaRenew. I am enrolled in a kids certification program as well, because my favorite person to practice yoga with is my four-year-old daughter. I’m eager to share yoga with anyone and everyone because it has had such a positive impact on my life, which is why I started my website. Visit muddywater.yoga if you’re interested in more articles.