When I first started my yoga practice, I regarded props as a symbol of weakness or being a novice. I did not want other yogis to see me in that light. I avoided props like the plague for the the first couple years of my practice. I eventually noticed that I was hitting hard stops within my practice. I had also injured myself because I jumped into postures, when what I needed to do was move slowly towards the asana. It is truly all about the journey and not the destination.
My advice to my students is to USE PROPS when you begin your yoga practice, and KEEP using them until the very last day. Use props to gradually advance to the next level in your practice. Don’t worry about looking silly, because a safer practice is more important than causing injury. The practice is ENTIRELY about you. It doesn’t matter what is happening around you, only what is evolving within you.
Below are yoga props that have helped advance my practice and can do the same for you too!
#1 Yoga Blocks
The building block of all props. Yoga blocks represent length, stability, grounding and comfort. For people who need that extra few inches to connect your fingers to the mat, use the block to help find length and stability. The block is great for finding length in Trikonasana (triangle pose) and Parsvokonasana (Side Angle). Blocks are also great to use as a seat in Malasana (Garland pose) or Virasana (Hero pose). Use the block in seated postures to alleviate any tension or discomfort on the knees.
#2 Yoga Strap
My strap has helped me access arm binds, heart opening postures, and even inversions. By using the strap, you can lengthen your limbs so that you can create the bind without fingers or hands having to connect. Don’t worry, if you keep using the strap to open and lengthen throughout your practice, one day, you can get that bind. Just remember, it’s all about the journey and not the destination. So do not get discouraged because someone else can fully bind. Postures where the strap can help find the bind are Gomukasana (cow face) arms and straight arms with hands clasped behind the back. There are many straps out on the market. The two straps that I use often are the infinity strap and regular yoga strap. Both are great in aiding with handstands and backbends as well such as Natarajasana (Dancers pose) and Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (king pigeon).
#3 Yoga Mat
Finding a mat that works with you is essential to your practice. I have gone through many mats throughout my practice. With each brand I found things that I liked and did not like. I highly recommend the following mats and have listed reasons why.
Manduka PRO Lite: Light-weight, cleans easily, cushioned, comes with a lifetime guarantee, available in an assortment of colors
Jade Yoga Mat: Grippy surface, porous so it’s easy to clean, made of natural biodegradable rubber, available in an assortment of colors, *caution: must be kept out of direct sunlight*
BYoga Mat: Grippy surface, lightweight, comes in an assortment of colors, made with natural biodegradable rubber – Editor’s pick!
#4 Yoga Towel
Whether it’s a Yogitoes (has rubber grip on the bottom) or is just a bath towel, make sure you bring a towel to your practice. Use it to wipe off your sweat, absorb your sweat and give you grip when your mat is sweaty and be used as a yoga bolster substitute when rolled up. Having a towel enables you to practice saucha, or cleanliness too! Don’t forget to wipe your practice area after class – leaving it clean for the next student will bring you good karma!
#5 Yoga Wheel
The yoga wheel is great for chest opening and back flexibility. Lay your back on the wheel for 5-10 minutes a day to open your chest and improve your flexibility. It also feels great after core exercises, allowing the belly to stretch.
#6 Yoga Pad
Have injured or sensitive knees? A yoga pad is a sound investment. I have a Yoga Rat Pad ($15.99) and use it constantly. I experience pain in postures that require pressure on the knee. The extra padding protects my knee joint and alleviates the pain, allowing me to be comfortable in my practice.
Are you ready to advance your practice? Let us know if the comments if you have used any of these props. We love to hear how our readers are keeping a long and healthy practice.[Photo by Jon Fife – CC BY]
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