Yoga props such as blocks, straps and bolsters are available in studios and are usually stocked right alongside yoga mats in stores. There was a time when I hesitated to use props for fear of looking weak or incapable. As I expand my yoga practice, however, I realize just how silly this is. Blocks, straps and bolsters help find proper alignment in poses and make practicing yoga more comfortable.
My major light bulb moment concerning props was at the Metal Yoga Bones class, when I was able to get through some tough lunges and twists with the help of a yoga block. Using a prop isn't a show of weakness; it is smart to employ a tool of strength for both safety and comfort. If you want to try out yoga props but don’t know where to start or if you are looking for new ways to use the ones you already have, read on for some tips on how to make the most out of these fitness tools.
Yoga teacher Kaisa Kapanen’s yoga strap guide is a great introduction for those looking to incorporate the strap into a regular yoga practice. Kapanen’s clear instructions will help you perfect your form and make poses more comfortable, and the sheer variety of poses explored, from Bound Angle to Boat Pose, highlights the strap’s versatility.
Need ideas for how to use blocks in your everyday practice? Yoga instructor and blogger Candace Moore of Yoga by Candace is here to help! Her advice is absolutely spot-on, with images that show the props used in both beginner and advanced poses so that you can see how the block will help you as you evolve. I’m a huge fan of pigeon pose, so any method that makes it safer and more accessible gets my vote!
Another great resource from Moore’s site is her image pinpointing the proper way to use a yoga strap in forward fold, as well as common errors.
Making your own yoga props can be tricky. It’s hard to cobble up a piece of equipment that offers the same stability as the real thing, and safety is important. A bolster, which is essentially a giant, firm body pillow that can help support you in a number of poses, is one exception. Michael Hayes, founder of Buddha Body Yoga, is a proponent of yoga for all body types and an innovator when it comes to using props. His short tutorial on how to make your own bolster shows how to use items that are available to you in a way that is fast, easy and cost-effective. Once you make a few bolsters (or buy some, if DIY isn’t your thing), check out Hayes’s rib-opening sequence for a great stretch and a quick lesson in priming your body for backbends.
Bondy, a yogi who aims to make yoga accessible to all, particularly larger bodies, demonstrates a vinyasa sequence using the blocks and offering several variations. Bondy explains in the video that she is shifting from the word “modifications” to “variations” in order to change perceptions of yoga and be more inclusive. This is a fantastic sequence, as Bondy shows how you can tailor each move to your ability and level of comfort.
Who says you have to relegate props strictly to your yoga practice? Make the most of your investment by adding them to your strength training routine as well. This workout from Self is serious business. The blocks are used in various ways, all of which force you to activate your muscles, especially your core, to properly perform each exercise. Your whole body is going to feel the burn. This is most definitely not a beginner’s workout, but those looking to increase the intensity of strength training may find this workout offers them that bit of oomph they want. Self recommends using sturdier cork yoga blocks for these exercises. Cork blocks are pricier, but for safety’s sake, it’s advice worth heeding.
Obviously, the best way to learn props is through the guidance of a yoga instructor, but these resources will enrich your home practice. Don’t fear or dismiss yoga props; they could be majorly helpful in your fitness regimen. Please check with a medical professional before beginning any new workout, and honor your body’s abilities when exploring props in your practice.