The world of yoga continues to shift its focus toward more accessible practices and spaces for all.
The use of yoga props is one of the easiest ways to make the physical practice, asana, more accessible and offer practitioners a variety of opportunities to experience the shapes and their physical, mental, emotional, and energetic benefits.
There was a period of time where certain styles of yoga, especially those often labeled as advanced styles, had a tendency to place a stigma against the use of props, almost considering them a crutch or something that hindered the practitioners ability to “practice at their fullest potential”.
Although there are probably some instructors and students that unfortunately may still feel that way, yoga props are now widely embraced by yoga practitioners and teachers across the globe.
Yoga props are not only a great support for beginners and for accessibility, but they can also enhance and assist you in furthering your asana practice.
In this article we will discuss:
- The Origin of Yoga Props
- Yoga Blocks and 3 poses to try
- Yoga Belt and 3 poses to try
- Using a Wall as a Prop and 3 poses to try
- Using a Chair as a Prop and 3 poses to try
- Substitutions for Yoga Props
Learn about props with us!
The Origin of Yoga Props
The use of yoga props as we know it now is attributed to B.K.S Iyengar, who with the style of yoga that he created and named after himself, the use of a wide variety of props was not only suggested, but encouraged.
According to Iyengar, “The use of simple props to maximize the opening and awareness of the body provides support to the less flexible and extra extension to the more advanced student.“
With this simple statement, Iyengar expresses with simplicity and exactitude how versatile the use of props can be when you choose to let go of that part of yourself that rejects support, and embrace creativity and exploration in your practice with the use of these great tools.
Yoga Blocks and 3 poses to try
Blocks are some of the most popular yoga props that you’re likely to find at your local yoga studio or gym.
They come in a variety of materials and sizes, and their main purpose is to lift the ground up to you.
Yoga blocks can be used to either bring support to beginners, or also give access to more advanced asana for those curious to explore that side of the practice.
#1: Supta Baddha Konasana with blocks outside of the knees.
If you find yourself in reclined bound angle pose and your knees float of the ground, consider bringing one block on the outside of each knee.
Remember that the blocks have three heights: use the lowest setting if your knees are quite close to the ground, use the highest setting if your knees are floating further from the ground or feel tension in your groins.
#2: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana with a block between the thighs.
Bridge pose is a great posture to open the front of the body as well as build strength through the legs and quads.
Oftentimes the knees have a tendency to fall open, so consider using a block right between your knees or thighs to promote drawing your energy and strength toward the midline.
#3: Paschimottanasana with a block on the soles of the feet
Whether your hamstrings and low back feel open and flexible, or you simply have longer arms, you may find yourself in seated forward fold with your hands way past your feet yet not much sensation.
If that’s the case, consider bringing one of your blocks to touch the soles of your feet, and instead of bringing your hands to your feet, extend your hands all the way to your blocks, creating more extension throughout the body.
Yoga Belt and 3 poses to try
Yoga belts, also known as yoga straps, are yoga props that are also very functional and can be used creatively in your practice to both assist and strengthen your practice.
#1: Navasana with a belt around your feet
If you’d like to practice boat pose in a way that is a bit less strenuous for the core and can assist you in finding better alignment and breath, try bringing your strap around the ball of both feet, and lifting up from there.
#2: Parivritta Surya Yantrasana with a belt around the foot
Compass pose requires a great deal of stability as well as hip and hamstring flexibility. If that wasn’t enough, it requires for your shoulders to also be strong and flexible, due to the rotation it demands.
Using a belt around the foot and grabbing it with your hand to access the asana can help create more space for your shoulder, also allowing you to keep the knee flexed, hence releasing the tension on the hamstring.
#3: Supta Padangustasana with a strap around the head and foot
This is a very fun, passive way that will also give your cervical spine a little stretch.
To practice reclining hand-to-big toe pose with your strap, use the buckle to loop it as big as possible, and as you lay down on your back bring it around your head.
As you come to supta padangustasana, bring the ball of your foot into the loop, and tighten it until you’re suspended and supported by the prop.
Using a Wall as a Prop and 3 poses to try
Using a wall as a prop is a great way to access a wide range of asanas.
#1: Viparita Karani against the wall
The common translation for this posture is legs up the wall, and although it can be done unsupported, it is a great relaxation pose to do with the use of a wall.
Bring one hip against the base of the wall, and as you bring your back to the ground lift your legs up toward the wall. Breathe there and let yourself soften toward the ground.
#2: Ardha Chandrasana against the wall
Half Moon pose is certainly a balance challenge, so if you feel like your energy is low or feel wobblier than usual, consider practicing the shape against the wall.
Not only will practicing the asana this way give you more stability, it will also help you build awareness of what your alignment is like in the shape, giving you an opportunity to stay within it and tweak it without the concern of falling out.
#3: Malasana with your back against the wall
Garland pose is not only beneficial for the hips and the low back, it can also be of great support for digestive issues.
Practiced without any yoga props can make it quite uncomfortable, and even though there is certainly a time and place to explore a certain amount of discomfort in yoga postures, sometimes it may be nice to take a little break from effort, and lean against the wall when practicing the yogic squat.
Notice how that will allow for more length throughout your spine, often shifting the sensations in the pose.
Using a Chair as a Prop and 3 poses to try
Chairs as yoga props continue to gain popularity, with practices like Chair yoga, and contrary to what you may believe, it is not only used at senior centers for gentle hatha yoga, they can also be used in the following ways:
#1: Virabadrhasana II seated on a chair
A great way to observe and work on your alignment for warrior II is practicing it seated on a sturdy chair.
When seated, it gives you an opportunity to notice the stacking of the bones, see where your feet are placed, and what the alignment of your hips and shoulders is, as well as your arms, releasing the need to balance, and creating more space to breathe.
#2: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana using a chair to lift up
Upward facing dog is a deep backbend, so when practiced with the support of a chair, you can bring your hands to the front corners of a sturdy chair, and create a plank position with your body from there.
Allow your hips to lower down toward the chair as you lift your chest, creating the arc in the spine for urdhva mukha svanasana.
#3: Garudasana seated on a chair
Eagle is a balancing pose that can be made accessible by creating the exact same shape, simply seated on a chair.
In that way, we take the need to balance on one leg out of the equation, allowing the practitioner to experience the shape with more ease when utilizing chairs as yoga props.
Substitutions for Yoga Props
Although having yoga props may be ideal, you may find yourself in a space where they are not available.
Practicing without them is always an acceptable option, but keep in mind that you can also get creative and see what you have on hand that could serve the same purpose.
For example, to substitute blocks, consider large cans, or a sturdy water bottle, or even thick books.
If you are in need of a belt or a strap, any belt in your closet or long scarf will most likely suffice.
When it comes to making the yoga practice adaptable to each individual, your own creativity is the limit, and bringing yoga props into your practice or your offerings is surely going to make them more accessible.
If you’d like to learn more ways to use yoga props, check out these articles!