Yoga props – quite a fancy way of describing something as simple as different yoga accessories aimed at helping you move through your yoga journey with ease, isn’t it? Yes, that’s all about the props in essence, but it is also all that it takes to confuse yoga newbies quite often.
So, let’s dig a bit deep into the subject.
What Actually is a Yoga Prop?
Any object capable of assisting you with your yoga poses can be referred as yoga prop. If you’re wondering why you never see any of the famed yogis using them in all the ads and campaigns you often see running on various media outlets; well, they are the pros and they don’t really need that sort of supplementation in doing yoga poses (also called asanas).
It’s the novices who need props the most. More often than not, they come across poses requiring much of flexibility and prowess (which they lack when starting the practice, of course!) to be executed flawlessly. So, props are there to fill in the gap, making the challenging poses ‘safer’ and easier to perform.
Iyengar Yoga (one of the most popular types of yoga, developed by Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja – BKS Iyengar of India) is known to involve extensive use of an array of props, many of which are pioneered by the guru himself. Beginners and stiffer people are the prime beneficiaries of such aids.
What Are Some of the Most Widely Used Yoga Props?
Also commonly known as a sticky mat, a yoga mat is considered to be the absolute basic of practicing yoga, whether you are a beginner or a pro. Not only do these offer a comfy, cushy, non-slippery surface to concentrate on your poses without the fear of injury or unwanted movements, some of them also come with body alignment lines and points, particularly helpful for beginners in aligning their bodies rightly through their poses.
Yoga Brick / Yoga Block
Made up of a firm but comfortable material (such as cork, hard foam rubber or wood sometimes), a block roughly sized as a brick, is commonly referred by yoga practitioners as a yoga brick or yoga block. Again, stiffer students find yoga blocks/bricks quite helpful in completing a pose rightfully, which wouldn’t have been possible due to their lack of flexibility otherwise. Arhda Chandrasana (half-moon pose) can be one of the best examples demonstrating the need of these yoga blocks, where the practitioners can place their hands on blocks instead of the floor, which kind of raise up the floor level for them.
Also known as an exercise ball, a yoga ball is mostly made up of soft elastic material, which is soft enough to support your weight comfortably and durable enough to be roughened up while using. You can get a yoga ball in different sizes ranging from around 35cm to 85cm, filled in with air. You can inflate or deflate the ball as per your need. It is used to get help in deepening your yoga poses as you advance through your practice.
Another of the useful yoga props, a yoga bolster is meant to help you with yoga by properly aligning and amply cushioning your body. In most cases, it is a thick, long cushion or pillow, either in cylindrical or rectangular shape. Also, it is available in varying sizes, with seven to nine inches of diameter being the most frequently used sizes, whereas the length can vary between 22 to 26 inches. It is often used to support the spine while relaxing and expanding the lungs while lying down on it.
Another everyday object, which you can use as a yoga prop. Serves as a great support, especially while practicing restorative yoga poses in addition to keeping you cozy when it’s cold. Experts recommend cotton blankets more than any other kind, as they are better at holding their shape and position, lying flatter as compared to normal woolen or synthetic ones.
Yoga Strap / Yoga Band
Just like yoga blocks, a yoga strap or yoga band is meant to help you with posture alignment, easing you through the poses, especially for people recovering from an injury or with stiff muscles. As you proceed with your yoga proficiency, you will realize the significance of maintaining the structure of your yoga poses along with pursuing the correct form of the poses. That’s where the need of a yoga strap or yoga band is most evident. If you’re wondering, straps differ in their open ends as opposed to the closed-loop formation of the bands; both serving the same purpose for the most part.
Strange as it may seem, yoga wheel is another great yoga prop with various yoga benefits. As the name suggests, it is circular in shape, designed to facilitate opening up of the front side of your body by rolling out the spine through appropriate assistance. Extremely helpful for yoga practitioners desiring to go deeper into their postures while maintaining the perfect form and posture without putting too much strain on their body parts, especially the spinal cord.
10 Reasons to Incorporate Yoga Props into Your Yoga Routine
One of the best things about yoga is that it lets you presonalize the practice in accordance with your needs and skill level. Fact of the matter is that everyone comes with a unique set of physical abilities and flexibility levels, mental state as well as work scenarios.
Then there are different kinds of urgencies and pressures; for instance, not being able to stretch as far as the others in the whole yoga class and the first one to break the pose. It is in situations like these where yoga props can be godsend.
In fact, there are more than enough reasons to resort to yoga props in improving your yoga journey, not only for novices, but also for experienced yogis, especially when they are looking to challenge their own limits. So, let’s have a look at the few most important of them:
1) Yoga Props Lend You a Comprehensive Experience of Yoga Postures
Beginners with limited range of flexibility or people with various other physical limitations and health concerns often feel helpless in performing some asanas, ultimately avoiding them altogether.
Yoga props enable such people indulge into yoga practice comprehensively, offering easy alternate ways to carry on with their practice, filling in the gap that exists due to their particular flexibility and fitness levels. This means they can even practice those extra-challenging and untried asanas (poses) with added ease and convenience.
2) Help You with Deep Breathing, Offering More Relaxation through Poses
Interestingly, the much hyped “no pain, no gain” philosophy really doesn’t go along well with the yoga’s philosophy, as it directly clashes with the very foundation of this discipline, i.e. the breath. However, many people fail to grasp this concept, at least initially.
It’s quite simple, if you are in pain or struggling otherwise with an asana, breath is the first thing you’ll lose focus from. And, if you are not breathing deeply, you are missing the whole point of practicing yoga in the first place.
Since it takes time gaining substantial control of your body to fine tune your yoga asanas, props ease you through your yoga poses, lending your body the desired assistance and balance, which you might not have otherwise.
This helps you focus more on your breath, the most vital element of yoga philosophy, making deep diaphragmatic breathing easy for you, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, instilling that sense of calm associated with yoga.
3) Essential Beginner Support
There is no doubt that majority of beginners are quite apprehensive about their yoga venture, and many of them quite rightly so, especially if they are already stiffer or injured, because they can well understand their handicap(s) in performing yoga rightly.
This makes it quite imperative for them to rely on the ease and support being offered by props to avoid unnecessary straining or injury of their joints and limbs while attempting challenging poses like backbends. Props ensure that your body stretches and opens up in the right manner.
4) Enable You to Personalize Your Yoga Practice
One of the best things about using props in yoga is the freedom to customize your yoga practice to your physical, mental as well as circumstantial needs and requirements at any given time. Rather than struggling unduly with your asanas, you are able to achieve a higher degree of body alignment by resorting to a prop.
It is equally important to realize that the challenges of yoga cannot be confined merely to the novices. Experienced yogis are also challenged while trying to advance their yoga skills, everybody experiencing a plateau of a unique type and level. They also need tailored assistance. So, they can choose a yoga prop best suited to their particular requirements.
5) Help You Focus on the Essence of a Yoga Asana
Many people wrongfully confuse the assistance offered by yoga props as a shortcut or cheat-code, which is totally a wrong notion. Instead, it is totally the opposite here. When used correctly, they give you the room to focus on the essence of a yoga asana and its mechanics rather than getting entangled in the issues of body alignment and posture.
So, when you are able to understand the basic philosophy and principles behind an asana, you are better equipped to practice it seamlessly.
6) Nurture Balance, Stability and Comfort
Certain yoga asanas, especially the ones involving lying on the floor bearing weight on your joints and limbs, can be quite uncomfortable if not cushioned appropriately. Props in yoga help you overcome that pain and discomfort, adding more balance and stability in demanding asanas.
7) Introduce Creativity and Variation
You will be amazed by the endless uses of yoga props if you want to get creative in personalizing your practice according to your body’s needs. While beginners can skillfully use the props to ease and support through challenging asanas, people with medical disabilities can utilize them to work around their shortcomings too. Similarly, experienced yogis can enhance their skill level by experimenting new things, trying out new variations and improving their understanding of the principles of the practice.
8) Offer Strength and Protection to Weak Muscles and Joints
Yoga props have long proven their worth in strengthening weak muscles and protecting joint strain. With light but stable cushioning provided by them during an asana, weak and vulnerable muscles get extra support and safety, avoiding any pain and discomfort. This becomes even more relevant when you are into weight bearing postures like backbends and inversions.
9) Prevent Fatigue and Restore Energy
Fatigue and loss of energy can be one of the major issues for beginners in yoga particularly, unless they are willing to use props. With the kind of support they offer you, continuing your yoga session becomes a non strenuous and exhaustion free experience, helping you restore energy to carry on.
10) Prolong Yoga Poses Safely and Securely
Over a period of time, after working on their form and stance, yogis strive to hold their asanas and poses for longer intervals. This helps them reap maximum benefits of practicing yoga in addition to perfecting what they continually learn. Yoga props give them the safest, securest and most reliable way of doing so.
It is much important to understand that yoga is a complete way of life rather than a temporary fad, aimed at improving your life in every possible way, physically, mentally as well as socially.
So, you don’t necessarily have to buy different yoga supplies in the name of props. You can very much use everyday objects available conveniently (and often abundantly) within your home. For instance, you can use an old canvas belt as a yoga strap. Similarly, you can bring in a light cotton blanket if you already have it at home.
The ultimate objective is to continue your yoga practice as safely, securely, conveniently and effectively as possible to foster maximum gains out of it in the long run.