An Intro to Yoga Props

Yoga Mats. 

It’s not a prop, I know, but I thought I’d start with the essential item. Once upon a time, if you had told me that I would spend over £50 on a yoga mat, I would’ve thought ‘what a waste of money!’. And then the day came when I decided to treat myself to a good quality non-slip yoga mat and I have never looked back! That mat has survived 5 years of a huge amount of practice including hot yoga and is still going strong. 

Of course, if you find a cheaper yoga mat that works for you then that’s amazing! But especially if you practice hot yoga or you tend to get quite sweaty, I do find that the non-slip surface makes such a world of difference. I’m not an ambassador for any brands but mats I have used and loved are Lululemon, Yogi Bare and Fable.

Block/Brick 

These come in slightly different shapes and sizes and in general there isn’t much difference between them. During my first teacher training in India, I discovered they use wooden blocks which were a bit different to get used to. I prefer one that’s foam or cork purely for different things you can use them for physically. Also, blocks sometimes get dropped and if you drop a wooden one on your toe you know about it! 

This is my number one prop. I would always grab one block, if not two, when I go to a studio to practice. Even if you don’t end up using them, as long as there is enough for everyone, I think these are the best items to have next to your mat so you can grab them easily. Blocks are not a ‘beginner’ prop. They can be used to bring the floor to you if you can’t touch the ground, but just because you can’t touch the ground does not make you inferior. If I want to focus on your spine or pelvis being in a certain place I’d 100% rather you put blocks under your hands than touch the floor with your palms but compromise the shape and benefit of the pose.

Strap. 

Personally, I don’t use a strap that much in my practice and teaching but it might feel great for you. I have found them most beneficial in restorative and slower practices. Where I don’t like seeing them used, is to pull on another part of the body. I don’t personally believe in pulling to get into end range of motion as there’s usually a reason why your body isn’t going there that’s a bit more complex than just to keep pulling on it. You can always let me know how it works for you and what you enjoy about using a strap in your practice. 

Blankets. 

If you go into a yoga studio there’s usually blankets that feel different to the softer fleecy ones you may have at home. Yoga blankets are quite heavy and are mostly used for yin/restorative and Iyengar. The firmness of the blanket when rolled or folded makes a difference as to how it supports your body – you can probably imagine some softer blankets wouldn’t provide as much support. One way you could replicate this at home is to try using a towel if you don’t have a thicker blanket. It can be a nice addition to a slower practice to have a blanket nearby to either roll up to support the backs of your knees in savasana or simply to put over you to feel secure and grounded.

Bolsters. 

Honestly, in my house we sit on bolsters to eat our dinner! We don’t have a table and dining chairs and we quite like sitting on the floor. So a bolster can be a nice addition to your household furniture if you want!

In the yoga studio, they are used more in yin and restorative yoga. Just like blankets, they make a great addition to savasana or under your torso in child’s pose. If you decide to get one of your own, I would advise getting one with a buckwheat (or similar) filling. Many people find bolsters to be too firm at first as they fill up the inside lining to the maximum. I usually open up the zips and take out some of the buckwheat so that the bolster has a bit more give to it which can feel nicer to lie or sit on. 

Dharma Wheel

There are a few brands that make these. The one I own is an unknown brand as it was a gift and it doesn’t have a name on it. Personally I rarely use this. I enjoy dabbling with it when working on thoracic mobility but I don’t teach or practice deep backbends (a blog for another day!), so I don’t use it for that purpose which I have seen many people do. Again, it’s all about finding what works for you so this may be a great addition to your props but my personal opinion is that I wouldn’t go out of my way to get one. All props are just tools to enhance your practice, they are not solutions and I think this particular prop can be viewed as a short cut to deep backbends. Always ask yourself why you’re using any prop and if it’s working for you. Critical thinking is the most important tool in your toolbox! 

Toe Spreaders 

Not a traditional yoga prop, I know! But it’s been a game changer for me and I need to share the love. Again, I can’t recommend any specific brand but get yourself a pair of toe spreaders.

I don’t actually practice yoga wearing these, I just wear them around the house for 30-60mins at a time. They’re great for realigning the toes over time and of course everything in the body is connected so our toes, feet, legs, pelvis, back, neck, etc all need equal love and attention. Have a look at a baby’s foot and see how spread the toes are and we lose this as we wear shoes. Toe spreaders, along with wearing Vivo Barefoot shoes (for walking, not running) have done wonders for my foot strength and that has an effect up the leg too. 

And just a heads up, the first time I wore these toe spreaders I really struggled as it felt so uncomfortable as my feet were not used to the position. But I stuck with it and advise you to as well as, like everything, it gets easier the more you use them. 

Let me know what other props you like to use! 

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