By Marie Jerard. E-RYT 500, YACEP
What are the best Yoga props today? In short, there are many good preferences. Some of the favorites among teachers are walls, chairs, balls, and bolsters, but anything you can use to improve student experience is worth it’s weight in gold. For teachers, the most versatile props are worth investing in. Let’s take a deep look at some of the best Yoga props today, some unique props, and some of the most versatile props in classes today.
Ultimate Guide to Yoga Props
One of the most beautiful aspects of Yoga is that you do not need anything other than your own body to practice it. With that said, props can help you have a deeper Yoga experience. This benefit is enhanced by how varied Yoga props are, providing an engaging variety of experiences, many of which would simply not be possible without them. For example, they can help you expand your flexibility, better support your weight, deepen your poses and otherwise experiment as they provide you with new ways to practice Yoga.
Yoga mats are so ubiquitous that many do not even consider them a prop, but a Yoga mat is in fact a nonessential part of your experience. However, they do greatly enhance many student experiences in a number of ways, which is why their use is as widespread as it is. The main benefit that they offer is added stickiness to your experience, allowing your hands and feet to better stick to where you want them to. This feature also helps you remain balanced, particularly if the surface below it is slippery. That and their padding provide relief to your joints as well.
A Yoga blanket is similar to a mat in how it is used by practitioners, but it provides a bit more flexibility. That is because it can add just enough additional height to the floor and to your poses, not too much and not too little, without affecting those poses nearly as much as other props might. It can provide a cushion for your hands, knees and other body parts as well. Of course, blankets can also be used to create a sense of warmth and comfort. An additional benefit that this prop offers is that the sweat that you have given off while practicing can be absorbed by it.
Another commonly used prop is the Yoga block, which tends to be made with cork, wood or synthetic materials. Its uses are varied. Beginners and others not able to extend as fully as poses would ask them to can use one to more easily stretch to their limits by essentially bringing the floor closer. Everybody can also use one to enhance stretches in other parts of their body, which can be done by placing it under their back, between their legs or elsewhere.
A Yoga wedge is a great prop for those looking to make the transition to more intense poses, such as ones that result in your body weight being completely focused on your hands and toes. In other words, the use of a wedge can allow you to continue to practice proper posture as you transition to more intense poses. This prop can also be used to relieve pressure on the wrists, which is of special benefit for those who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. Achilles tendons and calves can be helped by it as well. Additionally, wedges can be used under a mat or blanket in a seated posture.
The main benefit of using a Yoga bolster is to receive greater support around your stomach, a feature that is particularly useful for those who are practicing yoga while pregnant. These firm pillow-like props help you more easily open up your posture and stretch muscles related to doing so. Many report that using them also helps them more easily achieve a peaceful state of mind. Other benefits include improving your blood circulation and metabolism and reducing swelling or inflammation.
Although a Yoga strap appears to be a simple prop, its usefulness is impressive. Its main features are helping you maintain your poses for longer periods of time than may have been possible without it and helping you expand your range of motion. It also helps align your posture, loosen your shoulders and, for some, more easily get back into yoga after being sidelined with an injury. In addition, those who are looking to increase their muscle strength can use one to create resistance.
Yoga Neck Pillow
Yoga neck pillows provide support for your neck as well as help you experience a greater sense of relaxation and peace. Some will also or instead use one to help support other parts of their bodies, such as their spine, knees or ankles. Yoga neck pillows can be filled with different substances, which can include buckwheat hulls or flaxseed. Depending on how they are manufactured, they could also be heated or chilled.
A meditation pillow, as can be surmised from its name, is designed to help you get into a meditative state. One of the ways that it does so is by helping limit any discomfort that you have otherwise experienced while undergoing newer or more challenging poses. Another feature of note is that it can be used in a variety of ways; feel free to experiment with it as you continue to learn poses to help you get the most out of them.
One of the newer props – the Yoga wheel was created in 2014 – is quite versatile. It helps build your core strength, improve your posture and reduce any back pain that you may have been experiencing. How it does this is by opening up your front, expanding it significantly, while rolling and massaging your spine in its entirety. In most cases, it can also reach between your shoulder blades, something that Yoga props tend to not be able to do.
One of the more common props today is a Yoga ball. Its main benefits are helping improve your sense of balance and your core stability. This is due to it forcing you to balance yourself when you otherwise would not need to. If you have some favorite poses that are becoming, for lack of a better phrase, too easy for you, incorporate a Yoga ball into it, and it will instantly become much more difficult and rewarding.
Another way that you can increase the intensity of any poses that you are doing is by incorporating weights. For example, doing the warrior pose while holding some weights can add a considerable amount of challenge to it, particularly if you are holding the pose for an extended period of time. Do note that it is recommended that those who do decide to incorporate weights use light ones.
Yoga Knee Pad
A Yoga knee pad provides a lot of value for its small size. In this case, that is focused relief on your knees while this prop can also double as an elbow and wrist pad, protecting those areas instead. In fact, if you do not have a Yoga mat, cannot use one where you are practicing or choose not to, you could solely use a knee pad to ensure that those valuable parts of your body are protected.
Depending on how much hair you have and how it is styled, you can sometimes have much of it falling in front of your face or otherwise distracting you while you are trying to focus on your poses. A Yoga headband helps eradicate those issues for the duration of your session. Another benefit that it offers is helping reduce how much sweat your head is putting off, oftentimes onto your mat. Of course, that latter benefit will be of particular usefulness for those engaged in hot Yoga.
Many Yoga props are designed to limit the possibility of you slipping while practicing Yoga, and gloves fit in that category as they help you stay adhered to where you want to be. Not only do Yoga gloves help your hands become less slippery than they normally are, but they also ensure that any sweat that your hands may experience while you are in poses does not result in slippages. As a result of this, perhaps the greatest benefit that Yoga gloves offer is the ability to more easily practice yoga without a mat.
Yoga socks are another set of props that help you adhere to the mat or whatever surface you are practicing Yoga on. They also provide a layer of protection between any sweat that your feet produce and the surface that your feet are coming into contact with. This improvement in stickiness will help you get into and maintain Yoga poses and reduce the risk of suffering any injuries while doing so.
Many experienced teachers can modify 30 or more Yoga poses without any problem. A certified chair Yoga teacher knows how to teach classes that are entirely chair-based. A chair can expand your teaching skills as it helps students discover new horizons in their training. This includes being able to practice asanas that knee-related issues would otherwise restrict and engaging in back bends and restorative poses more easily. A Yoga chair can also help with any balance issues. For example, if you need to hold onto something while in a pose, this can be the solution. There are many options for a variety of chairs with open backs, lower back rest support, wheel chairs, and more. Chair, Iyengar, Adaptive, and Restorative Yoga classes commonly use chairs and some studios have a variety of chairs for different purposes.
Indo Yoga Board
Indo Yoga boards have been designed to mimic the unsteadiness of practicing Yoga while on water, resulting in those who are using this Yoga prop to be able to more greatly control their balance in other settings. Of course, the Indo Yoga board is not a perfect duplication of being on water, but it is as close as you can come while on dry land. This prop, which is made out of wood, has four rockers underneath it creating that water-like sensation.
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More About the Best Yoga Props Today
By Faye Martins
The reason why yoga props will always have a place in every studio and class, no matter what the skill level or flexibility of the practitioners, is because props elevate the integrity of many poses and allow those who would not otherwise be able to get into said poses, due to flexibility or balance limitations, to access them properly.
Even the Yoga mat can be considered a potential prop beyond just providing a consistent, padded, absorbent surface to practice on. The shape of the mat beneath one’s feet provides a grounding focus for the eyes, while training in balancing moves. It provides a consistent means of spacing the feet out against its edges in lunges, warriors, and triangles. The edges of the mat encourage a goal point for putting weight on the outside edges of the feet and heels.
Blocks serve a great purpose for both advanced yoga practitioners and beginners. Wide-legged postures for both naturally flexible individuals, and for those who have gotten there with great effort, is pertinent to maintaining the health of the hip girdle. Regular stretching of the hips keeps the hamstrings, IT bands and calves loose to maintain the integrity of the walking stride as well as the running stride. Hard (bamboo or wooden) yoga blocks make excellent steps from which to continue calf stretching.
Yoga straps may be necessary for building back flexibility, especially since doing bridges has limited ability to create space between vertebrate. Bridges may be useful for those who have the flexibility and shoulder strength to maintain them from the get go, but yoga straps are especially necessary for those who are not to the point of doing strong bridges that maintain wrist integrity. Equal back flexibility throughout the vertebral column is important for sustaining lengthened and open pectoral, intercostal, and psoas muscles. Keeping all of these areas limber will help prevent back, shoulder and neck pain, that results from a modern technological lifestyle and sitting for long hours. A great way to start building flexibility with a yoga strap is to begin in pigeon pose with the yoga strap wrapped around the ankle of the straight leg. A yoga block under the higher hip of the bent leg will be helpful for maintaining balance. Bend the back knee, while pulling on the strap overhead, feeling stretch in your shoulders. Bend the back leg. Your back will follow.
Best Yoga Props Today and Tomorrow
By Faye Martins
The world of Yoga is always changing. Although the basic moves and philosophy remain the same, there are great innovations when it comes to props. Many instructors and yoga enthusiasts now include props as an integral component of their yoga sessions to get the most out of their routine. When props accompany Yoga exercises, participants are able to adapt their movements. This is especially helpful for individuals who are pregnant, have had injuries, or deal with chronic pain. Props can allow individuals to extend their movements as well. Many of the popular props can be seen at a glance below.
Stretch straps are always an excellent accessory for an intense yoga session. While there is nothing new about the concept of a strap or resistance band, many stretch straps have been improved with the addition of numerous handholds. As participants work their way through a stretch or move, they can continue to progress through the handholds until their flexibility improves.
Socks and Gloves with Grips
While they are not necessarily a prop, socks and gloves with grips are an excellent addition to get the most out of a yoga workout. From having more stability on the floor, to a better hold on the soles of the feet, this simple piece of footwear can prevent injury and help a person to get to the next level.
Yoga Bench Accompanied with Stretch Bands
A variety of yoga benches have been created that have versatile functions. From using it as a prop for enhanced strength and flexibility, to having a mount for a handstand, it can propel one’s yoga performance to new heights. Add stretch bands to combine resistance training with traditional yoga poses.
Yoga bolsters act as a cushion and provide comfort while performing stretches. These supportive props are available in a range of sizes. Some are inflatable, allowing users to adjust the amount of air, in order to improve each yoga pose. They are a positive addition to any routine, as they assist in creating safe conditions during exercising.
Ergonomic Seat Accessories
For a yoga teacher, the principles of using props in classes, for posture alignment, create a form of exercise that can improve skeletal health and become a way of life for students. Therefore, it is only natural that yoga props should also carry over into everyday life. Ergonomic seats have been designed to encourage good posture for this very reason. The fact is: As yoga props develop, so will every day furniture in the average office and home. Hatha yoga is good for skeletal health and props will continue to evolve, due to the number of people who are taking preventative action to reduce or eliminate pain.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
Best Yoga Props Today – Creativity
By Kathryn Boland
Have you tried using more props for purposes beyond helping students enter and hold poses? Do you recognize benefits for strengthening, learning about alignment, and even deepening understanding of the practice’s non-physical aspects? In the family of yoga props we can include blocks, blankets, straps, wedges, and more. Let’s look at some ways we can use them to help our students grow in yoga practice – in both physical and non-physical ways.
Many yoga postures with hands grounded on the floor (in the “ideal” image of the pose) require a certain level of flexibility to get and keep them there. Forcing that could cause muscle tears and other longer-term issues. I often say to my students, after cueing a pose such as Pyramid Pose or Ardha Hanumanasana (Half-Split Pose) “You can’t quite reach the floor today? Guess what – the floor can come to you, with props…Isn’t that magical?” I joke.
Similarly, blankets can help students achieve greater ease, as well as avoid potential injury, in deep hip-opening poses like Half-Frog Pose and Pigeon Pose – by adding degrees of rotation that the poses call for, yet which some students’ anatomies cannot accommodate. Blocks can also serve in the same way, though blankets are preferable for this purpose, in my opinion – because they are softer and more adjustable to the exact amount of padding that a student might need.
Blocks can also offer very helpful support in balancing poses such as Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose) and a supported version of Warrior III Pose. They help one to lengthen the spine, gain clearer proprioception in the pose, and have a feeling of support that can reduce destabilizing fear. These ways that props can aid students in practice can also implicitly demonstrate how with a little help, and leaving behind an ideal of achievement through one’s own effort, we can accomplish things that are best for us.
Props can also aid in core-strengthening exercises. Knowledgeable instructors do know that, practiced mindfully, much of the practice strengthens the core. Yet as yoga spreads to more locations and types of practitioners, some students might desire yet more “core” work. It’s good for we instructors to have that in our “toolboxes”, that which is anatomically-informed and physically safe.
We can cue students to hold blocks in between a bent elbow and thigh or in between palms (while reaching forward) during crunches, for instance. Another fun variation of core work with a block is with passing a block back and forth from feet to hand as they come together and apart. All of that helps hone and direct energy in ways that increase both effectiveness and safety.
Blocks can also help teach students about alignment – in consciously understanding best placement, as well as developing kinesthetic (apart from conscious) awareness of that. For example, in poses like Bridge and Wheel, a tendency is for knees to fall wider than hips. We can have students place blocks in between thighs, as a concrete object into which to squeeze their inner thighs (or it will likely, for most people, fall).
Similarly, blocks can help hone alignment in Urdhva Hastasana. Many students tend towards alignment of the arm and shoulder that blocks energy flow, or – worse – sets up unsafe placement for weight-bearing poses (from fancy arm balances to Tabletop). Have students hold blocks in between their hands while reaching up, the widest and shortest way (so that it’s approximately shoulder distance apart for most of them). It’s a (granted, gentle) forcing to spin pinky-edges and triceps forward.
Twists, side-bends and forward folds can happen from there – of course being mindful about students needs and wants, abilities and growth levels. You can also have students raise their arms from shoulder height to up overhead, as well as move shoulder blades from together to separated across the back, to feel the actions of protraction, retraction, elevation, and depression. Getting a clearer felt-sense of these actions contributes to greater conscious and kinesthetic awareness of them.
That can begin building safer, stronger, and more overall effective asana practice – with all of the benefits that it confers. All of that can start with skilled and intentional use of these little objects we call props, with a power far beyond their relatively mundane appearance. They can be keys that unlock the magic that yoga practice can bring.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division