Whether you are taking a class or are practicing yoga at home, investing in some props can be helpful in assuming correct stances and postures. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to assemble your props. Here are some suggestions for equipment that can enhance your yoga experience.
Although most yoga studios are equipped with mats for patrons, it’s a wise idea to get a mat of your own if you plan on having a personal practice. Things to look for in a mat are durability, traction(you want to stick to your mat like flypaper!), and portability. Mats shouldn’t be very thick and should roll up tightly. There are a myriad of mats out there that vary in colors and texture! I’m currently using a Gaiam yoga mat, which is made of rubber, but one can find mats made from all sorts of materials ranging from the more eco-friendly to the synthetics. In my opinion, Jade offers the Cadillac of yoga mats!
The yoga strap is a versatile prop, which can be used in many ways for varying functions. It can be very important in poses, which require full extension of one leg while keeping one’s spine aligned. For example, in supta hasta padangusthasana one should not lift one’s pelvis off the floor or allow the leg to fall inward. Each of these can cause misalignments, which are a great disservice to the spine. With the strap it is much more easeful for the student to concentrate on the spine, instead of focusing on reaching the extended foot. A strap can also act as another pair of hands, which can pull muscles inward or draw them away from the body. Use a strap around mid-thigh to keep knees from splaying out in backbends. Finally, straps are fantastic for isometric stretches such as shoulder warm-ups.
One can substitute a rope, belt, or even an old t-shirt as a strap. In stores straps come in all different lengths so be sure you are getting the length you desire for your practice.
Bolsters are by far my favorite prop probably because I associate them with restorative yoga poses! Yogis should treat themselves to a good bolster to use at home on the mat. Open your heart and get a restorative backbend in Supta Baddha Konasana with a bolster beneath your head, neck, and most of your spine. Let your lumbar and sacral spine drape over the end of the bolster, bum grounded on the earth.
You can substitute a rolled up blanket or a pillow for a bolster or you can find bolsters in all different shapes and sizes all over the web.
The use of blocks in yoga practice will encourage a deepening into the posture or allow one to stay aligned within a pose for longer. Using a block to gain a more grounded position in poses such as trikonasana/triangle or Ardha Chandrasana/Half Moon will drastically improve alignment and help deepen one’s understanding of the pose. Blocks can also call awareness to a part of the body that needs to be engaged. For example, placing a block in between the thighs in tadasana/mountain pose gives the student a way of working towards an inner rotation of the inner thighs. To get the block to move towards the back wall with ones inner thighs is a visual acknowledgement of correct engagement!
I love using Hugger Mugger’s cork block, but of course there are many substitutes that are free! Try these:
A thick small book, Tupperware, a shoebox filled with something to give it a little extra weight, or a box of Kleenex for poses which won’t be weight-bearing. Let your imagination inspire you!
Happy New Year from YogaToGo. May you cultivate a mindful and joyful practice in 2010.