Top 5 Yoga Props and ways to use them

This week’s Top 5 is all about yoga props. I am a big fan of yoga props. They open the practice of yoga up to a wider audience by making poses accessible to people with very tight muscles or limited mobility. They are also useful to the more advancing yogi when learning new poses.  Last but not least, they can set the stage for some very relaxing poses for everyone! Here are the 5 best of the bunch:

  1. Blocks are a fantastic investment in your yoga practice. They can turn a miserable yoga pose into

    a comfortable yoga pose for beginners.  For example, sitting cross- legged can be miserable if your hips are tight. But, when you sit up on a block, suddenly you can sit a little taller and your knees are no longer up by your ears.  You could even say it’s comfortable! In standing poses, such as Triangle pose, instead of resting your bottom hand on the shin, which can put a lot of pressure on the knee, press your hand into a block and voilà! Suddenly you can comfortably open the chest and lengthen the spine.  The block can also be pressed between the thighs to familiarize yourself with the feeling of activating the inner thighs in many poses (downward dog, camel, forward folds, etc.).  You can also push your hands into a block in a forward fold when you just can’t quite reach the floor. The possibilities are endless!

  2. Straps  are another incredibly helpful tool.  My favorite way to use a strap is for supine leg tie stretches. They a great way to stretch the hamstrings when your flexibility is limited. The strap can also be used when your fingers cannot quite reach in cow-face arms — hold the strap instead! The strap is also useful to wrap around the upper arms or upper thighs when practicing more advanced poses to keep the elbows or knees from falling open. Wheel and forearm-stand come to mind!

  3. Chairs are yoga props more commonly seen in an Iyengar yoga class, but even an ordinary chair in your home can serve as a great prop.  If the backs of your legs are very tight and a block is too far to reach in a forward fold, you may use a chair instead. Press your hands firmly into the chair, lengthen the spine, press your feet into the ground and feel a comfortable stretch in your hamstrings. The chair can provide great relief in a forward fold to people who feel like the backs of their legs are going to tear as they reach for the block in a forward fold! A chair can really be used in any pose where a block just isn’t high enough. You can also lie down and rest your calves on a chair seat for a relaxing position.
  4. The wall. Yes, I said the wall.  You cannot carry it with you, but it is usually available and can be such a useful prop in a myriad of poses. Downward dog takes on many different variations with a wall — you can stretch your thumb and pointer finger apart, then push them into the very bottom of the wall as you come into downward dog. This encourages external rotation in the shoulders — an aspect of the pose that is sometimes hard to

    practice or feel.  Legs up the wall is a pose where you lie down and bring your bum right up against the wall and the legs straight up. It is a very calming pose and helps to circulate lymphatic fluid in the legs.

  5. Bolsters. Bolsters are long, fancy yoga pillows. In some poses, you can substitute a few firm pillows for a bolster. They are great for restorative yoga poses. Child’s pose with your head and torso resting on a bolster can be very relaxing. Placing a bolster across the bottom of the shoulder blades for a passive backbend is also a nice way to open the chest in a relaxing way. A bolster or pillow can even be placed under the knees in savasana to make the lower back extremely comfortable.