Walking into a yoga studio for the first time can be an exciting and intimidating experience. You might think to yourself, “What is all that random stuff stacked in the back of the room? Bolsters, blocks, straps, blankets, pillows, wheels, WHAT have I gotten myself into?”. Rest easy, my friends, you are looking at your new BFF’s in your yoga practice.
A good set up with props can support, enhance and revolutionize your asana practice. Over time, I have learned some tips to make props more effective, like putting a blanket over a hard wooden block before resting your head on it, or learning how to buckle your strap so it actually works properly. Some of those little guys are complicated!
The ego can sometimes pop up when a teacher suggests using props, especially if you have a more advanced practice. If you think you are strong enough or flexible enough not to need props you may be shocked to find out how much better your body feels if you try them occasionally. For beginners, props are a necessary tool to help your body find alignment and support in poses. For advanced yogi's, props can really make a difference in giving you a little extra space or length in the body, even if you don't technically 'need' them. Props are like close old friends; they are always waiting in the wings to lend a hand when you need it. Here are a few friends you might see at your local studio:
Blocks can be made from wood, cork or foam and are about the size of a big, wide brick. You can use them to bring the ground closer to you in standing stretches or provide stability while you build your balance. Blocks can help elongate the spine and create more space in the body. Blocks are frequently used in seated asanas and restorative yoga to help prop the body up in comfortable positions that can be held for longer periods of time.
Straps have endless possibilities. Name a pose and a strap can usually help; bringing the hands closer together in binding poses, opening up the leg while lying on the back, perfecting your balance in standing asanas, the list goes on! Just don’t get excited and pull too hard on your strap, be gentle with your body and move with your breath to avoid any injuries.
Blankets can be used while kneeling to give extra cushion between your knees and the floor, support the cervical spine during inversions like shoulder stand, or provide warmth and comfort during savasana. Personally, I love it when a teacher offers to tuck you in with a blanket for savasana; it’s like adult nap time.
Wheels can be used to stretch and release muscles in the back, neck, shoulders and hip flexors, or as a challenging base to use in balancing poses.
Bolsters are long, thick, cylindrical or rectangular cushions that help properly align the body in restorative poses or during savasana. Bolsters are arguably my favorite prop of all time, you can even see me relaxing with bolsters in the cover photo for this post!
I hope this gives you a little more confidence to use props in your yoga practice. If you still feel nervous, come join me for a class and let me introduce you to your crew of yoga BFF’s! Yoga is for anyone and everyone regardless of age or physical ability and props can give you the support your practice needs to thrive. Join me for a Beginners Class every Wednesday and Friday 4:30-5:30 pm at Ekam Yoga.