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  • Nancy Boudreau, RYT, CHHC

Yoga Props Aren’t Just for Beginners


Using bolsters, blankets, blocks and straps in yoga

Learn how using props during yoga can help you get stronger, more flexible, and deepen your practice.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people refuse to use props during their yoga practice. They think props are for beginners, or for someone who is weak or inflexible.


They feel like using props is somehow cheating or taking the easy way out.


But none of those things is true.


Have you ever been to a yoga class with a bunch of yoga teachers? Oh my goodness, do we love our props! Give me 2 blocks, a strap, a large bolster, two of those small bolsters, three blankets, and an eye pillow—You get the picture.


We love our props, and you want to know why? Because we understand that yoga props are tools that can help strengthen and deepen our practice.


Everybody is different. We all have a different range of motion, level of strength, balance, and flexibility. Some people can do a split or bring their nose to the floor in a wide leg forward fold. Some of us will never be able to do that either of those things.


It doesn’t matter if you’ve got tight hamstrings, short arms, or a long torso. There’s nothing wrong with you or your body.


You don’t need to change your body to practice yoga. You need to adapt yoga to your body.


And props can help you do that.


Why You Should Use Props During Yoga


Props can help you get in and out of a pose safely, make a pose more comfortable, allow you to hold the pose a little longer, and stretch a little deeper.


While you’re building strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance, props provide a feeling of safety and offer stability.


Props can help decrease the intensity of a challenging pose and if you have an injury or pain.


Using props can help you focus on alignment and the shape you are trying to achieve in a pose.


Yoga Props and How to Use Them

Yoga Mat

Also known as a sticky mat, a yoga mat is the most important tool of the trade. It provides cushioning, especially for knees when you're in a kneeling pose. A mat also provides traction for your hands and feet to prevent slipping and sliding.


Yoga mats come in different sizes, colors, and thicknesses. Most yoga studios and gyms supply mats, but I recommend you buy your own. They come in a wide range of prices, but you can get one for under $20. If your mat is thin and you need extra cushioning, double up and place your mat on top of a mat provided at the studio or gym.


Blocks

Yoga blocks are my favorite prop. I use them all the time. When I’m teaching a class, I always ask all my students to have a set of blocks on their mat.


Blocks “bring the floor up to you.” Rest your hands on top of blocks during lunges to deepen the stretch.

Lunge using blocks

If your back feels tight during a standing forward fold, rest your hands or fingertips on blocks for support.

Forward fold using blocks

Use blocks for stability when trying balance poses like Triangle or Warrior 3.

Triangle pose using block

Experiment using the different sides of the blocks to see which height works best for you.


Blocks come in foam and cork. Foam blocks are inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to travel with. Cork blocks are heavier and cost more but offer a little more stability.


Straps

Yoga straps are used for support, stretching, and stabilizing your arms and legs.


Wrap a strap around the soles of your feet to help ease into a seated forward fold.


Use a strap for side stretches and to stretch out tight shoulders.


Straps are helpful in poses like extended hand to big toe or Dancer pose, which require you to lift and hold your leg up.


A strap can stabilize your legs in a bound or bind pose like bound cobbler or legs up the wall.


Use a strap to stabilize your arms in chaturanga or dolphin pose.


Bolsters

Bolsters are used to provide support and make poses more comfortable.


If you have tight hips, a bolster can make seated postures more comfortable by lifting your hips above your knees. This is particularly helpful during a seated meditation.


Use a bolster under your back for a supported back bend.


Place a bolster underneath your knees to reduce low back strain during savasana.


Blankets

Blankets are used for cushioning and warmth.


A blanket keeps you warm as your body starts to cool down during savasana.


If you have tight hamstrings or lower back, sitting on the edge of a folded blanket will lift your hips above your knees and make a seated forward fold a little more accessible.


Use a folded blanket to cushion your knees when you’re on all fours or in a kneeling pose.


Place a folded blanket on the mat for poses when you’re lying face down.


Used a rolled blanket under your knees for support during savasana.


Eye Pillow

This is strictly optional, but I love an eye pillow during savasana.


An eye pillow is a rectangle-shaped pillow made with cotton or muslin fabric and filled with flaxseeds or rice.


When you place it over your closed eyes, it helps block out any light in the room. The weight of the eye pillow rests on acupressure points around the eyes and gives you a relaxing, cozy feeling.


Gather Your Props and Practice Yoga

If you’ve never used props during your yoga practice, give it a try.


Yoga studios and gyms typically have blankets, blocks, bolsters, straps, and mats.


For home practice, I recommend you purchase a yoga mat and a set of two blocks. You can get these inexpensively online or at a big box store.


Yoga props can get pricey so start by substituting them with household items. I’ve seen people use rolls of paper towels or large thick books for blocks.


You can substitute a belt for a strap. One of my teachers has a bag of old neckties that she brings to class to use as straps.


Pillows, couch cushions, and folded blankets or towels can double as bolsters.


So, gather up some props, roll out your yoga mat, and enjoy a relaxing and comfortable yoga practice. Let me know how it goes.

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