Props in yoga, something I think a lot of us have a chequered past with. We can all be honest enough to say that when we may have seen props as a sign of weakness or a sign of not being able to do something “right”.
Really they’re there to enhance your practice, not take away from it. Whether that be supporting your relaxation or making a pose comfortable for your body.
So what are the most common props in yoga and why should we use them?
Probably the most common prop and the one which most studios and gyms have to hand. Blocks vary in size from an inch thick and wide enough to sit on to higher and narrower.
They are a versatile prop and can be used to create extra height in the body, help balance, activate certain muscles or support a more relaxed restorative position.
Support comes often when we are sat on them or using them to help balancing postures whereas activation is when we bring a little resistance against the block. By using the blocks in either of these we can challenge the body in a way that otherwise it may not be able to achieve.
Some inspiration for you:
– Try popping between the knees in Boat pose to fire those deep core muscles
– Take a propped version of Bridge pose by resting the sacrum onto a pile of blocks
– Find your balance in Half Moon by resting the bottom hand onto a block, meaning you can focus on that rotation of your torso
– Raise your seat in seated postures to make twists, folds and meditation more comfortable
After blocks and bricks yoga straps are the prop you’re most likely to come across in a studio or gym. If you practice from home they’re also pretty cheap and easy to store. No falling over props with this one.
Yoga straps can vary but they tend to be a 1.5m-2m piece of cotton webbing with d-rings at one end. They have many uses, from making it easier to reach your feet, to supporting a release in the hips for a restorative position, helping build strength or encouraging the body to relax.
A strap, with its changeable length and uses is a perfect prop to help us to remember and treasure the journey into your practice. It can help to take away that physical and mental grasping of the pose that we so often slip into.
Some inspiration for you:
- Lengthen your arms by hooking a strap around the ball of your foot in a supine hamstring stretch. The strap means you can keep the shoulders relaxed while still straightening the lifted leg
- Open the chest and shoulders by holding opposite ends of the strap and gradually drawing the arms up to the ceiling and behind the head, flossing the shoulder joint
- Support the hips in reclined Baddha Konasana by creating a loop between the lower back and the feet, holding the feet in place when you come to rest
Yoga bolsters are often seen around at studios or are offered for savasana but are you unsure what to use them for?
A yoga bolster is a cylindrical cushion which is used to support the body in poses often of a more restorative nature. They vary in filling from hollow fibre softer bolsters to more mouldable buckwheat fillings. Whatever the filling they can be used in both seated and reclined postures to enable the body to relax or support the body to make a posture more comfortable. When lifting the hips bolsters can help the lower back. When used to bring the floor a little closer they help support the body in stretches. It’s also perfect for practices such as pregnancy yoga or more injury focused rehabilitation to limit the range of mobility in the body.
Some inspiration for you:
- Try putting a bolster under your knees in Savasana to help the lower back release
- Bring some support to Child’s pose by laying the torso down onto a bolster nestled between the knees
- Rest the forearms in Lizard to bring the floor a little closer to you
An eye pillow is essentially a small bag filled with seeds to add some weight to your eyes in relaxation. These fillings mean they can mould to the shape of your face, completely blocking out light and providing rest. Eye pillows are sometimes scented with lavender but others are unscented to use your own essential oils with.
The obvious way to use an eye pillow is in relaxation at the end of class. It’s the perfect way to block out any light and the weighting begins to let your body know to relax.
Some more inspiration for using eye pillows:
- Try weighting postures with them, the lower back in child’s pose or pop on the palms of the hands in savasana
- Alleviate some pressure on the wrists in the downward dog by popping the heel of the hand onto an eye pillow to elevate the wrist and lessen the degree of the bend
What to use if you don’t have props?
Props are a lovely thing to invest in for your practice but for a lot of us that isn’t practical financially or space wise. But good news, you can DIY most of these props from things you already have in the house.
Yoga blocks – Depending on what you are being asked to use it for you could always substitute for a thick book (think a dictionary or Harry Potter)
Yoga straps – A dressing gown tie/scarf would do the job in most postures.
Yoga Bolsters – They can often be substituted with a rolled duvet or even a couple of pillows from your bed folded and wrapped in a blanket.
Eye Pillows – A folded scarf or blanket is perfect to place across the eyes in savasana to create that lovely weighted feeling.
Georgie is a British yoga teacher and founder of the yoga business Yogipod which brings together her love of textiles, yoga and travel. Previously working in the fashion industry Georgie now divides her time between sewing hand block printed textiles into yoga bolster covers and other props and guiding people to explore and play in their yoga practice. She believes that yoga really is a practice for all and hopes to empower students to have the confidence to move and connect to their bodies.