Who loves a yoga prop!?
I'm here to share with you the wonderful world of Yoga props! When we first start a yoga practice the first thing that bounces into our mind is what do I do, what do I wear and will I be good enough? These 3 things may have even put you off trying Yoga or attending an in studio class.
The great thing with practicing at home at the moment is we have a lot of freedom to adapt the practice, we can rest when we want to, we can have a drink, we can even practice with the camera off. Another great thing is the use of props, things from around the home that can really be a game changer in our physical practice. Pillows off the sofa, a rolled up towel and even a few books can be things that aid our physical yoga practice and can support our own individual needs.
We move through so many different poses within a yoga practice and we need to move away from the 'perfect' pose, especially visual representations. Each body has its uniqueness and we all have beautifully different anatomy. I've said many times before within classes that my guidance and instruction might resonate with 20% of the class (Im being generous here) and the other 80% need modifications. This isn't something to be taken lightly and as a teacher it's incredibly important to have that versatility. When you attend a class you are taught to listen and tune into your body, recognise your strengths and weaknesses, your focus, your balance and discomfort (These might often be a shout rather than a nice softly spoken conversation from your body in the beginning). Over time we start to notice imbalances, poses we enjoy and poses we would happily stay away from but with props we can make almost every posture accessible.
This is what the practice of yoga truly means, adapting it to our needs. The will to learn, the will to change and the willingness to really be honest with ourselves. We have all done it, if something doesn't feel right in a posture we haven't changed it so it becomes more accessible we just stay there grimacing and sweating reminding ourselves of those words we have heard so often 'No pain, No gain'. I'm telling you it's time to close that book, why would you want to force yourself into something that could potentially damage your body and boost your ego? In yoga, we take our time, we DO feel discomfort in stretches, when we strengthen our muscles and even mentally when the teacher says 'just one more round' (which is often a complete lie!). Within this time we honour our body and mind with kindness, you build a connection and you gain the awareness of trust, focus and a deeper understanding of commitment, you feel GOOD after practice, not exhausted and hating the next time you have to do it. Have you ever forced yourself to do something you didn't want to do and hated every minute of it? If its not working change it, if you don't like it, don't do it. I personally have a rule of 3... give anything 3 chances (ANYTHING) and if it isn't working, let it go.
So what props can we use in practice?
I mentioned the use of pillows, rolled up towels and good thick book. These are still actually wonderful to use but you may have also noticed lots of wonderful yoga gear that has flooded the market in the last few years. If you want to invest, keep it simple, have a little knowledge on what you need and deepen your yoga practice three fold. You don't need to force yourself to get deeper, if anything we need to learn to surrender into the journey, it is within all of this where we find the greatest joy!
Blocks can be used in almost every pose, they are super beneficial for bringing height to standing yoga poses and are wonderful for sequences close to the mat. For example, within a standing forward fold we can place the block in front of the feet and rest our hands on them, rather than straining the hamstrings or lower back we create our own expression and depth in the pose. There is still sensation but you feel in better control, and my goodness you can breath! Blocks are firm and can be made of foam or cork, they bring height to poses, they can also prop under the knees or outer thighs for seated postures, they can be placed under the pelvis in pigeon posture and they can even aid those wanting to learn arm balances! Once you get used to incorporating them into your practice you will find all sorts of wonderful ways to use them.
Standing forward fold
Supported butterfly pose
Half moon pose
Supported fish pose
Probably my favourite prop of all, the bolster! A firm cylindrical pillow that can support body weight but also mould to the shape of the body. Bolsters are great for Yin or Restorative yoga practices where we stay in a posture for a long period of time, the bigger the prop/s the better! We can drape and soften the body over this prop and really get the most of its support. Blocks create height in poses and bolsters allow us to soften closer to the ground, they also have the ability to take stress off the bones. The muscles engage to move the bones within the body and as we support the bones in the body, the muscles relax, as do the bones = a very happy relaxed body that requires no force or effort. Yin is an incredible practice that you need to try if you haven't, ultimate relaxation!
Seated forward fold
Lizard (dragon) pose
Straps are always useful to have close by, they are great to use for those hard to reach poses! A simple instruction of reach and grab your foot, is easier said than done and not only can we get disheartened the fact our foot might be out of our grasp but we then think we aren't good enough to practice the pose. Straps are ideal in covering distance within a posture, it's very often the hand to foot, it may also be hand to hand like in a posture called Cow face pose (Sanskrit: Gomukasana!). I personally find Gomukasana invasive and my arms aren't keen on doing it, so I use a strap and have done since I first started practicing yoga! Another great use for a prop is allows us to find support within a pose, as if it locks our alignment in place, you can also use them in a restorative practice.
Standing hand to big toe pose
Cow face arms
Seated forward fold
Reclined hand to big toe pose
Blankets are not only perfect for final relaxation, but they can give you a little extra snuggly support in any of the poses I mentioned above for the bolster or block. By using a blanket you're in charge of the thickness and even the width that you want to support your body, if you noticed discomfort in the knees within child's pose rolling up or simple double folding over a blanket and pushing it behind the crease of the knee can be very helpful in creating space within the joints.
Any seated posture
Any kneeling posture
Using anything to help us in our practice can really unfold a new perspective, even after all these years and my practice being where it is, I know that using my props I can make my practice my own. I can aid where I need to within the body within that specific time of day, you will notice that every week your practice feels different, the body will change to your emotional state, stress, food intake, sleep patterns. It is important to accept these fluctuations and work with them, rather than being judgemental towards yourself if the body isn't doing what it should be doing! Take your time, find what feels good, find what feels uncomfortable and enjoy adjusting to suit your beautiful body!
If you're unsure of what props to buy here are a few wonderful links:
Lots of love,