Fitness classes are interesting environments. There can be some level of competition between participants, which can work well to push you to work a bit harder than you might otherwise. But in some cases, particularly yoga, where the focus is on looking inward, the competition element is a bit out of place. It can also make students reluctant to use yoga props as they might need to. But I find that once students understand a few uses for yoga straps, yoga blocks and yoga blankets, they’re much more likely to grab them and use them through class on their own.
Common Yoga Props & How to Use Them
Yoga blocks are probably the most common prop you’ll find in a yoga studio, and easy to find at Target or other retailers. Blocks are versatile and serve a variety of uses throughout class. Most commonly, blocks are nice to have to “bring the floor closer.” Basic anatomical differences might mean that one student can easily reach the floor in pyramid pose, and others, with shorter arms, cannot. Using a block on either side of the foot allows the T Rex arm student (of which I am one) to plant their hands, microstraighten their knee and keep their spine from rounding. Basically, the block allows them reach the floor more easily. This is handy in any pose where reaching to the floor is cued. Extended side angle, triangle, pyramid, etc.
Here are other favorite uses of blocks for me as an instructor and a student:
- Support the hip in pigeon, or rest the red
- Between the shoulder blades in supported fish
- To give a little height in crow
- To rest the knee in supine spinal twist
I even keep a block under my desk at work to help with low back pain in my office chair!
Yoga straps are also generally available in studios and retail locations, but any belt or strap will work. Straps provide firm resistance – these aren’t exercise bands or something that bends and stretches – and assist with form and alignment. They’re particularly helpful for those with tight shoulders, hips and hamstrings, or any tight area.
Here are some of my favorite ways to use a yoga strap in my practice.
- Seated and supine forward folds. Looping a strap around a foot, whether seated or reclined, and exploring movement is a great stretch for the legs and hips.
- Cow face pose, particularly when my shoulders are too tight for the full expression.
- Assist in Warrior III by looping the strap around one foot, launching up and pulling the heel behind you with the strap.
- Flossing the shoulders – standing in Tadasana with the strap in either hand, reaching up into urdhva hastasana, and keeping the strap in place through baby backbend.
To be completely honestly, blankets puzzled me as a yoga student for a while. It wasn’t until my own teacher training that I started to understand how they could be used, and not until I took a restorative yoga course with Judith Lasater that I really understood the amazing benefits that just a blanket or two can have in a yoga class.
- Support your knees in kneeling poses – protect your knees in low lunges, table top, and anything else where you need a little support
- Sitting on a blanket can help tilt the pelvis forward and help with seated forward fold poses
- When a block is too firm or high for pigeon, a blanket can be a nice, soft support option
- Rolling a blanket and placing it between your heels and seat in Virasana
- Support your shoulders in shoulderstand and/or plow pose
- Savasana – either on the mat to make it a warm, nest like environment, or on top of you for a calming weight.
Using Yoga Props in Every Yoga Practice
Some studios may only have one or two of the yoga props mentioned above. Try to grab them for every practice – prompted or not – and see how they enhance your experience from class to class.
What are your favorite ways to use yoga props in yoga classes?