Whether you are new to the practice of yoga or have been incorporating in your lifestyle for some time, it’s important to know what are the yoga props and how to use them. I used to think that using props meant that I was not going into the pose deep enough, but actually props can bring many benefits. Using props can teach us to be in the correct alignment during the pose. They also protect us against injury by providing support to the body, joints and bones. They are used almost always in restorative in yin yoga, when holding the poses for a prolonged period of time. Let's look at some of the most common yoga props used...
If you invest in one yoga prop only, I would highly recommend getting the blocks. Two is enough and they can assist you throughout your yoga journey. Using the yoga blocks is simple and you can use them for almost any asana (pose). There are any different kinds, some made of foam, cork, bamboo or heavier ones made from wood. The foam blocks are quite popular as they are very light so easy to pick up and moved around during the poses. The blocks can assist you in the standing poses, such as triangle pose, when bringing the arm to the ground. If you cannot reach the mat, you can place the block next to your foot and rest your hand on it. Blocks are also used for back bends, such as camel pose, placing them near to the soles of your feet and bringing your hands to rest on the blocks instead of the soles of your feet. For bridge pose, you can place the block under your sitting bone, and this can also be the restorative option of the pose. Most yoga teachers will provide guidance on the use of blocks during a yoga session.
Providing cushioning to the body, bones and joints, bolsters are a great addition to have to your yoga practice. Alternatively, you can also use pillows, but make sure they provide enough cushioning to the body (not thin ones). Some poses in which you may find bolsters helpful for are reclined hero pose, placing it just at the tip of your feel and leaning all the way back on it; bow pose, placing it under your stomach to provide you with a higher extension of the chest; pigeon pose, extending the arms and chest forward on top of a bolster instead of the floor; extended puppy pose, placing it under your arms and extending the arms forward and many other asanas. Bolsters are also used in restorative yoga, providing a soft, gentle support to the body when sitting in a pose for a longer period of time.
The yoga straps are generally used to provide extra support for flexibility and stretching. Most straps are easy to use and don’t require much effort. Common poses in which you could use the strap are when doing seated forward bends, holding it on either side and placing it on the soles of your feet; during gomukasana/cow face pose, when the palms of your hands don’t meet, so you can hold the straps and pull in opposite direction, the top hand pulling up and the bottom hand pulling down; when doing twisted head to knee pose, placing the strap on the sole of the extended foot helping you extend the spine and then twist. There are many poses the strap can be helpful for, just be weary not to pull too hard on them and ignore the movement needed from the body. Use them to help you with flexibility not to just pull on them.
Pretty self-explanatory, blankets can be used during shavasana (corpse pose) to place on top of your body for warmth or folded and placed under your head when doing poses which require you to lie down. Like bolsters, they provide cushioning and support to the joints and bones in the body so you can use them under the knees, hips, ankles, during sitting poses etc.
The yoga sandbag is a prop used to provide extra weight placed on a part of the body during a specific pose. Most commonly used in restorative or yin yoga, but available for all types of yoga, using the sandbags is a great way to relax the muscles and release stress and anxiety. By applying more pressure on the muscles, the specific area of the body begins to surrender and go into a more relaxed state. The yoga sandbags can also be used to help you go deeper in a pose due to their weight. They come in different weights and sizes, depending which area of the body you would want to use them on. Heavier ones apply more pressure, helping the body release more and even strengthen the muscles. Alternatively, you can use it over your eyes during shavasana.
Yoga props are very helpful and I highly recommend making use of them during your practice. And of course, let's not forget the number one yoga prop, the yoga mat. Find the one which suits your needs the most because they also come in different sizes, some thicker to provide more support, others thinner but more sticky. Which is your go to yoga prop?