There seems to be a plethora of yoga props out there, which can at times seem overwhelming – why do we use props, and when do we used them? And I know on Tuesday nights we use a lot of props!
So here’s a little guide of why, how and when to use props, and I’ve included a few of the props I use in my group classes and private one to one sessions.
Possibly the most recognisable prop! Your mat marks your space in the room. Be considerate of other people’s mats – don’t walk over someone else’s mat with your shoes on, for example. Mats are also there to provide you with a bit of extra cushioning.
Blocks can be placed in three different ways, creating three possible heights: they can be laid flat (lowest height), placed on edge (middle height), or stood on end (tallest height). Blocks can be used to ‘bring the floor to you’ to assist with flexibility: think about when we put a block under our hips in Pigeon Pose. They also help to reduce the reach, access core stability.
Sometimes called ‘belts’, straps can help stabilise joints, encourage flexibility, support inflexible parts of the body, and create traction and space – which can really help if you suffer from compression somewhere in your body. Using a yoga belt can provide instant relief for some people. Think about Seated Forward Fold (Caterpillar or Paschimottanasana): if you can reach your shins, but not quite reach your feet, the belt can help you access the flexibility required to one day reach your feet. And one day you will reach them!
This is a prop that I strongly recommend in Savasana, as it help draw the senses inwards (called ‘Pratyahara‘), and induce a meditative state.
Fairly obviously, a cushion to sit on when meditating! I find that if I’m meditating for long periods of time, certain body parts can become numb. This cushion provides a little bit of extra comfort to keep the numbness at bay.
This is a relatively new invention, and one that I use in my private one-to-one sessions. It’s intended to improve spine flexibility, making backbends more accessible and comfortable for beginners or advanced yogis. In addition to assisting with back bends, using a yoga wheel can help open the front of the body, including the chest and shoulders, abs, hip flexors, and quads.
Again, another prop I like to use in private one-to-one sessions, and again, a relatively new invention from Germany. It was originally invented to assist inversions, particularly headstand, but without putting any pressure on the head. This has been particularly beneficial to my own practice, as pressure on my head (particularly the vagus nerve which runs from the crown down the back of the head) can exasperate my PoTS and cause pain. However I’ve come to realise that the FeetUp is beneficial to everyone, as it really helps strengthen the muscles needed for inversions. Since its release in 2007, the FeetUp has also been used for accessing many other yoga poses, such as backbends, heart openers, and even chair yoga!
There are two props that I missed out on this photo: a blanket and a bolster! It wasn’t intentional, honest.
Blankets are primarily used at the end of a yoga class in Savasana to help induce that warm, cosy feeling. They also stop you cooling down too quickly if you’ve had a particularly vigorous class. But alternatively, they can be used for extra cushioning under knees, or extra support in chest openers and forward folds.
Bolsters do exactly what they say on the tin: they bolster you in order to open, release or support a body part.
Basically, props are there to make yoga poses accessible to every practitioner and progress your practice. Don’t be afraid to use them, and certainly don’t think you’re not a ‘good’ yogi for acknowledging you need to use a prop. Putting aside your ego to improve your practice is one of the best things that you can do for you. My practice wouldn’t be where it’s at today without props, and I still use them now! So play around with different props and see what benefits you.