I always find it helpful to have yoga props on-hand when doing my yoga practice. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned yoga practitioner, there are many benefits to using props. And keep in mind, just because the person beside you isn’t using blocks or a strap, remember that your practice should always cater to your own needs.
I’ve witnessed students struggle in poses when they don’t need to. Instead of relaxing they are in discomfort, or maybe even pain. I like to think of yoga props as an extension of the body as they can help you find ease and comfort in a pose. And the more you can relax in a pose, the more your body opens up, which ultimately means you experience a deeper stretch and a stronger practice. In an post I wrote earlier this year, I talked about the importance of relaxation in our practice and how forcing and pushing can cause the opposite.
Yoga props are also excellent for promoting proper alignment. Have you ever been in a pose where you’re straining to touch the floor? Enter a yoga block. In this situation, a yoga block acts as an extension of your arm, so that your body can be properly aligned as it comes into the pose without having to overcompensate. The result is a deep stretch and no risk of pain or injury from doing a pose incorrectly.
There are various yoga props that can be used in yoga practice. I recommend that you talk to your teacher and ask them to suggest a few props that you can use in your own practice. From my experience, the most common props that are used time and time again (and you couldn’t go wrong if you bought them) are straps, blocks and the bolster. You can always find a way to use these props in your practice.
Here are some common yoga poses that many people find it helpful to use yoga props in.
Seated Meditation – Sit on a blanket or use a block or bolster to give you some height, so that your hips are higher than your knees. This helps people with tight hips stay relaxed and comfortable. It also helps to prevent your lower back from collapsing backwards and causing your front body to compress, constricting the diaphragm and making it difficult to breathe.
Seated Forward Fold – Place a strap around your feet to avoid rounding your back. Using a strap helps facilitate lengthening of the spine, releasing shoulders downwards and keeping the chest wide.
Pigeon – As you move into this hip opener, if your hips are uneven, place a block, blanket or bolster underneath the lower hip to elevate it to the same level as the other.
Standing Forward Fold – Place your hands on the block to avoid over stretching of hamstrings and releasing of neck and back.
Warrior 3 – Place hands on blocks and work on balancing and strengthening the standing leg. Make sure to square off hips as the other leg is raised parallel to the floor.
Bridge – Place block underneath sacrum to help facilitate opening the chest and release of hips.
Downward Dog – Place a block at its lowest height, horizontally on the floor. Bring the thumb and index finger of each hand to wrap around each side of the block. This helps keep hands and arms shoulder width apart and helps stabilize upper body and shoulder blades in the back.
Michelle Uy is a Certified Yoga Teacher and Owner of LoveActionYoga. She is Co-Creator of the Eat Well Feel Well Program, a nutrition program.