There are many ways to use props in your yoga practice to support your body, enhance technique, deepen your postures, and experience deep relaxation.
Most commonly used props include blankets, straps, and blocks/bricks, and even if you don’t have the yoga-fied version of these props, you can usually find something around the house that will work.
Blankets are one of the most versatile props to use. They make great cushions to sit on, you can roll them into bolsters to lie on, or use them as pads to support tender or tight areas, and of course they keep you warm during relaxation. A few key ways to use blankets include:
- If you are tighter in the hamstrings, hips and back and you can’t sit comfortably on your sit bones, or you find your back rounding, sit up on a blanket or two in your seated postures to reduce the risk of injury and enhance the stretch in the intended muscle groups.
- If your back gets sore or doesn’t feel supported in Relaxation pose, place a folded or rolled blanket under your knees, along the length of your spine, or under your head to achieve a more comfortable position.
- If you have tightness or old/new injuries that crop up, especially in seated postures like Head to Knee pose or Bound Angle, place a folded or rolled blanket under or around the tender area for support. Better to feel less stretch and more support when an area is injured or at risk.
Straps are great ‘arm extenders’ when those tighter areas of your body don’t allow you to catch onto feet, hands etc. As well you can use straps to provide support in drawing body parts together, or stabilizing a posture. A few key was to use straps are:
- When trying to reach your toes in seated postures like Seated Forward Fold use a strap around your feet so you can maintain healthy spinal alignment.
- When trying to reach your hands together in poses like Cow Face, hold a strap between your hands to reduce tension and maintain good alignment.
- You can use straps to bind your thighs or arms in postures where you don’t want them drifting apart like Shoulderstand or Bridge – just keep in mind both the advised alignment, as well as what alignment feels good for today. Avoid drawing too close together.
Block and bricks come in a variety of materials and sizes and are great for providing support and stability, giving muscle groups a focus, and ‘bringing the ground up’ to your body. A few ways you can use bricks include:
- In standing poses like Triangle and Side Angle place your hand on the brick if your hand doesn’t reach the ground easily, or if reaching the ground compromises your posture.
- In backbends like Cobra and forward folds like Seated Forward Fold use a brick between the inner thighs to help engage inner thigh and pelvic floor muscles for stability.
- Use a brick between the knees in poses like Bridge to avoid knees drifting apart.
- Use bricks under your hands to ‘pick up’ and float through your transitioning Vinyasas.
The use of props in your practice is always guided by where your body needs support, stability, and reach, and the only limitation to how you use props and what props you can use is your imagination. Other props that can support and develop your practice range from the smallest (rolled washcloths under your wrists in relaxation or restorative poses) to the largest (using a wall for Handstands or Legs Up the Wall). There are great resources to teach you how to use props safely and effectively, particularly from the Iyengar Yoga lineage which makes great use of props. A few resources I have found helpful include books like ‘30 Essential Yoga Poses’ by Judith Lasater and ‘Cool Yoga Tricks’ by Miriam Austen, and magazines/websites like Yoga Journal or Australian Yoga Life. But, as always with the practice of Yoga it’s best to receive instruction in person with a guided practice or private session that can give you clear direction on how props can support your body in practice.