Physical yoga practice seems pretty straightforward there sure are a lot of products that you can buy. Are all of them necessary? Absolutely not! What accessories any individual practitioner “needs” or wants to have should be based on the needs and style of their individual practice, not the marketing campaigns of yoga companies. Don’t get me wrong, accessories can add dynamism and ease to a practice but there is no need to feel as though you need to buy everything available on the market in order to have a practice at all. I am going to break down each accessory so you can determine whether or not a certain item may be worth adding to your practice.
This is part of an ongoing series (because there are seriously that many things marketed towards yogis). This first part covers basics props.
You might think that a mat is inherent to yoga practice but actually yoga has been practiced for centuries without mats. It is only within in the last 20 years or so that mats have become integral to western yoga asana practices.
What: a piece of material about a quarter inch thick a little wider and longer than a person’s body with varying degrees of stickiness.
Why: Practicing on a mat cushions the joints and provides a consistent area and material to practice on.
Where: There are endless options to choose from when it comes to buying the right yoga mat.
Things to consider:
If you tend to practice in one or two places heavier mats are often made from more durable materials so it might be worth the extra weight.
Cost? You can buy a cheap mat from basically any department store or spend upwards of $100 on a mat. In my opinion, it is hard to find something that is durable and truly adds a beneficial amount of cushion or stickiness for less than $50. If you are new to yoga and aren’t sure you are going to stick with it my advice is to go with a cheaper model to start then invest when you know it will be worth it.
Design? This might seem materialistic but if you are a regular practitioner you are going to be looking at your mat a lot. Consider what color and style you will enjoy for the longest time and what energetic quality the colors of the mat will bring to your practice. If you do any social media involving yoga I would consider what goes with your design ascetic and what will contribute most to your theme.
What: Literally a blanket
Why: A blanket is one of the most versatile props. Use it to rest under your hips in prone (belly down) positions. Add cushion under your knees in camel and pigeon. Relax your head on it during supine (back down) poses at the end of class. The list is endless.
Where: You can get a blanket anywhere. You can use a plain old blanket you already have or pick something up to be your designated yoga blanket. I got mine second hand for about $10 (don’t worry I washed it thoroughly). The best blankets for props are easy to fold, slightly think, and made of super soft material.
This is a new style of prop that has been popularized in the past three years.
What: I spherical prop typically made of wood or plastic often with a sticky material surrounding the outside circumference.
Why: Use this prop to increase balance by practicing balance poses on it (start with an easy one). A dharma wheel can also be used strength train by rolling from down dog to plank while holding the wheel in your hands or plank to forward fold while keeping tip toes on the wheel. Or you can use this to roll under the back for heart opening. I advise being cautious with this last option because rolling the prop under your lower back could easily exaggerated lumbar extension and not in a good way. Try to keep the prop in the thoracic spine if you choose to use this option. I don’t use a wheel regularly in my practice so if you’re interested check out this article.
What: A piece of material about three inches wide between two to four feet long.
Why: Use this to create a slightly deeper stretch without compromising alignment. You can also use a strap to simulate a bind if you can’t complete a bind with good alignment. I like to think of this prop as a way to extend the length of your arms or legs i.e. if you aren’t flexible enough to do a pose this gives you extra reaching ability.
Why: Blocks are one of the most ubiquitous yoga props because they are incredibly versatile. Blocks can be used to create restorative poses or stimulate muscle recruitment in strength-based poses. You can find a way to incorporate blocks into pretty much any yoga pose.
Where: You can purchase blocks from sporting goods stores, department stores, or online.
Things to consider:
How big you want them to be? The thicker your blocks are, the more support you will have in restorative poses and the bigger your base will be if using them for balance. And vice-versa.
What material do you prefer? Foam is the softest, wood the most stable, cork a nice balance.
What: Large semi-firm cushions normally about half a body length and varying in shape.
Why: Bolsters are all about comfort. Featured heavily in restorative yoga practices, bolsters offer support for your limbs and allow muscle relaxation. If you are recovering from injury or find that you have a hard time winding down in yoga class bolsters are for you.
Where: Sometimes you will find bolsters in yoga studios but I think it is easiest to buy them online. I paid a little extra for design when I bought my bolsters but I feel like it is hard to go wrong with this prop. Also try here.
See, the choices really are endless. Just remember to that the only thing you truly need for a yoga practice is willingness to just be. Accessories are just a little something extra but they are not truly necessary. Let me know if you have had any amazing experiences with props and what they do for your practice in the comments below.
Love and light,