The best gift I ever gave myself was a series of yoga classes a little over a year ago. At first, I was a little intimidated to start because I wasn’t as flexible as I thought I was supposed to be. But, I found the right studio with the right instructors who helped me put aside my fears and realize that everyone has a different level of flexibility. Props are there to help us get the very most out of each pose. Here is a list of my top 5 props that I use in my yoga practice and that every beginning yoga student should know about.
1- A Sticky Mat: For me, a sticky mat is the best surface to practice yoga because it stops my feet and hands from slipping out of my poses. You need the friction so you can fully concentrate on the pose without worrying that you’ll slide right out of it. The mats also provide a little bit of padding between me and the hard wood floor. You don’t have to go to a special sporting goods store or yoga studio to purchase one; I picked mine up at Target for about $20.00.
2- Blankets: For additional padding, I like to use a yoga blanket. Most private studios usually provide them to their students, but, if not, they’re not too expensive to purchase. The blankets are usually about 5 feet by 7 feet long. I use them mostly for sitting and kneeling poses; I have sore knees so the blanket gives me the extra cushion I need. You can also fold them up and use them as support for other poses.
3- Blocks (or bricks): Yoga students at any level can benefit from the block! These blocks are made from lightweight but very sturdy materials. I use a foam block, but they can be made of wood, bamboo and even cork. They provide the support and the height that I need to do a safe and correctly-aligned pose. If you cannot bend over and touch the ground, then bring the ground up to you by placing your hands under a block. Blocks can also be placed under your hips, under your sacrum, between your thighs or between your feet; they will even stay firm under an adult’s full body weight.
4- Bolsters: Bolsters are great for additional support and comfort. They should be firm and dense and should retain their shape during and after use. Although they do come in a variety of sizes (including cylinders, round cushions and neck rolls), I prefer the rectangular bolster. I use it under my back and shoulders for a great heart-opening stretch, and under my knees to relieve any lower back strain I feel during shivasana, or the corpse pose. They’re also great support under the chest and head.
5- Straps: Straps give you the length you need to hold your hands and/or feet in case you can’t reach them. They also help to hold your limbs in place while you’re in your pose. They can range from 4-9 feet long; the taller you are, the longer the strap should be. You can double up the strap to make it shorter if necessary.
Yoga is about uniting the body, the breath, the mind and the spirit. We all need to respect our bodies and our body’s limitations. Props enhance your practice by providing support and comfort while you’re in your poses. It’s not about how far your back bends or how easy it is to touch your head to your knees. We should honor wherever we are in our practice without being judgmental of ourselves or others.