Yoga Props: What Do You Need to Do Yoga?
If you have ever been to a yoga class, you’re probably not a stranger to the use of yoga props. They can make it more enjoyable, accessible, creative, challenging, and effective. Props can also be incredibly beneficial if you’re looking to establish your home yoga practice.
However, choosing yoga props would suit your own specific needs may be rather hard. Especially if you don’t have indefinite funds to spend.
To help you with that, I’ve compiled a list of yoga props that I find useful along with a few alternatives for them. So, you can work out what you need to take your practice a step forward.
First things first ….
Though clothing is not really a prop, you may have wondered about what you’d need to wear for yoga. Brands may make it seem like you need fancy yoga pants or sports bras to practice yoga. Not really.
You can do it in your pajamas, a simple top and a pair of leggings, shorts or sweatpants. You can practice in a bikini or your underwear (or even without it if naked yoga is your thing).
The basic principle here is in finding what you feel comfortable in and what doesn’t constrain your movement.
If you struggle with motivation, getting a few of those pretty pants and fancy bras may not be that bad of a thing. Wearing something nice and good quality might actually get you in the right mood for practice.
And now, the props…
What Yoga Props Do You Need
1. Yoga Mat
Why use it: A yoga mat creates a layer between you and the floor and prevents contact with cold surfaces so that you can completely focus on yoga and yoga alone. It makes your practice more hygienic (given that you clean your mat), and allows for a better grip.
So, if you tend to get sweaty hands and feet (or if you practice Ashtanga on a hot day), a yoga mat can stop you from sliding all over the place. It also is softer and easier on bonier body parts that have to carry weight such as arms in planks and balancing postures and knees in lunges.
Poses to try: Any and all.
Alternatives to a yoga mat: For a very long time I thought that there can’t be yoga without a yoga mat, but recently I’ve done a lot of moving and traveling (with the ability to take only limited luggage with me) which has made me push my own limits and practice without a mat.
Experiment with getting out of your comfort zone and practice on a bare floor, as long as it’s comfortable, not too cold or hard on the joints or bony body parts.
You can also try using a rug, a towel, a large piece of cloth, or tapestry that is big enough for you to freely move on.
If you practice on a rug or carpet and find it challenging to balance, it may be too thick. Simply move onto a harder surface for the standing and balancing postures.
If you practice on the floor but feel like lunges and similar postures are killing your knees, keep a folded blanket or towel at hand and place it under your knees during these poses.
Look into getting a yoga bag or a sling strap if you plan on regularly carrying your mat somewhere. I find bags to be more versatile because they usually have a pocket and shield the mat from the elements.
Read more about how to choose a yoga mat.
2. Yoga Towel
Why use it: If you practice faster types of yoga, especially if it’s hot yoga or Bikram, or if you sweat more, you can spread a yoga towel over your mat. It will absorb the sweat and other body oils. Throw the towel in the wash after your practice and that’s it.
You’ll need to clean your yoga mat less frequently and it will last longer. When practicing at a local studio, you can bring a yoga towel instead of a mat and use it over one of the studio’s mats. It will be more hygienic and you’ll need to carry less.
Poses to try: Any.
Alternatives to yoga towel: Any towel that fits the size of your mat will do, though yoga towels are more absorbent and dry quicker. In contrast with regular bath towels, yoga ones tend to have grip dots that hold the towel in place and provide additional support against slipping.
Why use them: Blocks provide additional support for beginners and advanced yogis alike, and allow you to modify postures while you develop strength and flexibility.
When working on flexibility, blocks are a great way to bring the ground closer without compromising alignment.
You can also sit on them to:
- stabilize the lower back in seated postures,
- raise yourself higher when you develop strength in arm balances,
- squeeze it between your thighs in order to engage your legs and keep your knees from swaying to the sides, or
- open the chest in restorative poses.
Get a pair, since there are many great ways of utilizing them in different postures.
Poses to try: Triangle, seated forward fold, pigeon pose, splits, bridge pose.
Alternatives to yoga blocks: A book or a stack of books (wrap them in a cloth for more stability), durable boxes, lunchboxes, Tupperware, large cans and other pantry items, bottles of detergent, pots or rolled up towels or blankets.
If you are looking for something more unique, take a look at this yoga block/bottle.
Why use it: A yoga strap is another prop that can be used to modify poses that work on flexibility while maintaining correct alignment. It acts as an extension to your arms in postures which require your hands to reach your feet or bind. Yoga straps normally have buckles that can be used to secure the strap in poses where the distance between arms is important.
Poses to try: Any seated forward fold, extended hand-to-big-toe pose, dancer’s pose, boat pose, king pigeon pose.
Alternatives to yoga strap: A scarf, belt, or towel.
Why use them: Yoga bolsters are a useful and versatile prop in restorative practice. They can provide support, soften poses, help you to open the body, and relieve tension in your neck, chest, abdomen, back, and legs.
Poses to try: Corpse pose, wide seated forward fold, forward fold, bridge pose, reclined bound angle pose.
Alternatives to yoga bolsters: Pillows, cushions, removable couch or armchair cushions, rolled up towels or blankets.
Why use it: A yoga blanket can be used as support in slow and restorative styles of yoga. In reclining postures a rolled up or folded blanket can be placed underneath your spine to open your shoulders and chest. You can also use it under your knees to release the pressure from the lower back.
A folded blanket can be useful during meditation and in seated postures. It will elevate your hips and ensure comfort and better alignment of the spine and lumbar spine.
Poses to try: Corpse pose, camel pose, child’s pose, hero pose, shoulder stand.
Alternatives to yoga blanket: Any blanket you have around the house.
7. Yoga Wheel
Why use it: The yoga wheel is the new kid on the yoga prop block. It’s rather versatile in use and can be great for yogis of all levels to play around with different postures.
It can deepen backbends, massage the spine, and open the chest. A yoga wheel can also make core work and balancing postures more challenging, and provide a stable base in inversions.
Poses to try: Wheel pose, scorpion pose, forearm stand, pigeon pose, planks.
Alternatives to yoga wheel: A yoga wheel can be rather pricey, but you can try an exercise ball instead. It’s not as versatile as a yoga wheel but it will do the job for some postures.
Why use them: Sandbags can be used as extra weight in yoga practice. They provide a deeper opening in poses without straining, especially if you practice Restorative or Yin Yoga.
They can also aid to stabilize and ground you in a posture. You’ll get the most of them if you use a pair.
Poses to try: Butterfly pose, child’s pose, supine twists, reclining hand-to-big-toe pose, legs up the wall.
Alternatives to sandbags: Strap-on weights, bags of rice or legumes. To save money you can buy unfilled cotton sandbags and fill them up with sand, rice, or beans. You can also easily make them out of old trouser legs.
How about you? What props do you like using? Which ones would you like to try? Are there any alternatives that you can think of? Let me know in the comments below.