Just as the right running shoes can help you pound the pavement with ease and lead to faster split times, yoga props can help you get more from your posture practice. While you’re likely well familiar with the yoga mat, if you’ve ever been to a yoga studio or perused the yogi section of a sports store, you might have a few questions surrounding what’s up with all the props. Good news: We’ve got the answers!
How Many Yoga Props Do I Need?
The yoga props you need depends more on where you set up your mat and what you’re looking to get out of your yoga practice. If you practice at a studio, more likely than not, they’re going to have plenty of yoga props from which to choose. However, if you like to pose at home or in a casual class that meets up in public spaces, than having your own props can be handy.
Having lots of props is very helpful if you tend to do more Yin style yoga, which is a slow-paced practice where postures are typically done on the floor and held for longer periods of time. In order to achieve the deep stretches of Yin yoga, the body needs to be supported and that’s where props come in. Beyond Yin, props can help you scale the postures of other yoga styles to meet the level of yogi you currently are.
Are Yoga Props Mostly for Beginners?
No. Each body is different, which means simply sitting on the floor in a cross-legged position can be more comfortable for some with a block beneath their bums, while others will be fine just atop their mats. And while props can help make some poses easier or more comfortable for beginners or the less-flexible, some props can up the intensity level of a pose for a yogi who is looking for something more challenging.
Should I Skip Buying Props if I Don’t Do Yoga All the Time?
Yoga props may have been made with yoga in mind, but they can also be used in other types of workouts or on rest days when you’re more focused on stretching and mobility. Having access to yoga props–either where you work out or by purchasing them for your own home–can have positive effects on your body.
How Do I Use Yoga Props?
Below is a list of common yoga props with general tips on how to use them in both yoga and other forms of fitness.
- Yoga Mat: In addition to providing cushioning, yoga mats are often made of material that prevents your hands and feet from slipping when doing practicing postures.
Beyond Yoga: Floor core workouts are great on a mat, as it will help to cushion your body during range of motions. You can also fold up the mat and place it between a dumbbell and your pelvis for some padding while doing glute bridges.
- Yoga Block: A yoga block looks similar to a rectangular brick, but is lightweight and typically made of foam or cork. If you’re a beginner or tend to be less flexible, a block can provide support when your hands need to be on the floor for a pose, but you can’t quite reach without using bad form. It can also help to support you in restorative poses. For the more advanced, up the intensity of arm balances by placing blocks beneath your hands or forearms instead of directly on the floor.
Beyond Yoga: Do tricep push-ups by standing two yoga blocks on their ends and aligning them beneath your shoulders in a push-up position. Place your hands behind the blocks and lower down until your shoulders touch the tops of the blocks. Push back up to the starting position to complete one rep.
- Yoga Strap: Similar to a long woven belt, yoga straps can help you maintain good posture, alignment, and form in various postures. A good example is Reclining Leg Stretch, where you lie flat on the ground with one leg straight out in front of you on the floor, and the other leg in the air perpendicular to your body. Using a strap can help you to deepen the stretch without having to awkwardly contort your body.
Beyond Yoga: A yoga strap can help keep your muscles nimble, regardless of if you do yoga. To open the shoulders, hold the ends of the straps so that your hands are wider than shoulder-width. Keep the belt pulled taut between your hands and you raise your arms up and over your head toward you back. If this is painful, move your hands further apart. If it’s too easy, bring your hands closer together.
- Dharma Yoga Wheel: Shaped like a padded plastic wheel, a Dharma Yoga Wheel is great for helping to open up the body during stretching, while increasing intensity during balance postures.
Beyond Yoga: Improve your balance and your core by using this round yoga prop beneath your front foot when doing standing lunges.
Which Yoga Prop Is Right for Me?
Where you’re getting stuck or feeling unchallenged in your yoga–or even fitness–practice will be the best way to determine what yoga props you need in your life. But you also won’t really know until you try. Head to a studio for a yoga class and give them a test run during your practice, or ask a friend to borrow props for you to try before buying. Yoga props could be just what your body needs to do its best.