Yoga Props: Are They Necessary?
Yoga Strap Around My Arms
There are many different Yoga props out there, but are they all necessary? When I found Yoga, I practiced with no props, and I still often forget about props and teach without any regard to them. Some Yogis say you have to have props to do Yoga properly, and others, like myself, realize that there are many things around the house that can be used in the same way.
The main Yoga props widely used are blocks and straps. Blocks are used to bring the ground to the Yogi, and straps are used to bring the Yogi to the Yogi. Blocks are great for those Yogis who are just starting and don’t have the ability to reach all the way to the mat in various poses, including standing forward fold, extended side angle, triangle, half moon and standing wide legged forward fold. They are also widely used in Yin Yoga to assist in poses such as heart openers and assisted shoulder stand. Straps will help Yogis get their limbs closer to their body in poses such as dancer, hand to big toe, king pigeon, and compass pose.
There are other Yoga props on the market to assist in Yin and Restorative Yoga styles including bolsters and blankets. Bolsters are fantastic to lift the hip up off of the ground, taking some pressure out of the hip flexors and leg muscles while sitting for longer periods of time. Blankets are used for savasana, meditation, and in Yin and Restorative Yoga styles.
As previously mentioned, there are many things around your house that you can use in place of these props. For blocks, instead you can use a sturdy stack of books, a block of wood (for certain poses), a chair or stool, or even your coffee table for extreme inflexibility. For straps you can instead use a piece of rope, a bathrobe tie, an old pair of pants/tights, or a towel. Bolsters can be replaced with any couch cushions or pillows you have laying around your home, and blankets can easily be replaced with other cozy blankets.
There are, however, some props that are more difficult to replace as they are designed for specific uses. Two props in this category include the Yoga Wheel and the Feet Up Trainer. The Yoga Wheel is used to improve spine flexibility and back bends. You can also use them to practice balance by standing in a squat on them and holding there for a period of time. From the squat you can start to work your way up to other, more difficult Yoga Asanas. The Feet Up Trainer was designed to do just as it sounds: train Yogis on how to invert with a safe support under their shoulders. This cool prop helps the Yogi to build the appropriate muscles and stamina to hold themselves up for longer period of time and eventually take the training wheels off, so to say, and invert with out the trainer.
What it boils down to is, what are you used to and what do you prefer? Do you prefer to have props around to utilize and try new things, or do you want to just flow without having to grab and adjust props? The answer to this question will be unique to every practicing Yogi, but personally, I’d rather just flow without the extras.