(Photo via Stretch Now Website)
How’s your time on the mat been treating you so far in 2016?
It can be a little tricky to get your practice back into full form after the holiday period, but here we are in February (already!) and it’s about time to start nourishing our inner yogi again – on the regular!
This week, I wanted to share my ideas with you about the amazing benefits of using yoga props during your mat time.
I have to admit that I never explored the use of yoga props until I had my first daughter, Isabelle. My body had changed so much throughout pregnancy and early motherhood that I was virtually ‘forced’ to start using them.
Talk about humbling, but also incredibly expansive!
It’s only now that I can see that before I was first pregnant, I brought a lot of ego into my yoga practice: ‘I don’t need props, I can do everything perfectly myself… And if I can’t I’ll push towards it!’
Having a dance background, I really believed that I should PUSH myself towards perfect alignment – using props would be cheating.
Once I shifted some major gears – having Isabelle and undertaking my yoga teacher training, I was finally able to embrace the true value of yoga props. They are, in fact, vital for experiencing the true benefits of many, many yoga postures, especially for those with injuries and poor flexibility.
These days, I LOVE props! So, here’s the rundown on the standard yoga props, how you can use them and why they’re so important:
Not really a prop, but more an essential!
The key here is quality – yes, there really is a BIG difference between a department store ‘exercise mat’ and a quality, specialty yoga mat!
The most important aspect of difference is the materials used. Mass produced mats (ie. the really cheap ones) tend to be made from, or at least coated in, toxic plastic materials! Do you really want to be breathing that stuff in while you’re practicing?
The other elements I’ve really noticed is thickness and grip – the cheapies tend to have you sliding around on the floor and are either too thick to gain grounding, or too thin to feel solid!
Quality mats, on the other hand, are non-toxic and grip beautifully to both the floor and your hands and feet! They also last WAY longer and are a wonderful investment for your long-term practice.
Especially wonderful for the more restorative yoga poses, bolsters provide deep support for some serious wind-down and body-opening.
They are incredible for gently opening the upper back, chest, ribs and belly in some key postures and just let you ‘flop’ in where your otherwise compromised flexibility might hamper you.
Ultimately, bolsters deeply support you in your practice. These days, I’m never without one! And FYI once you have tried Savasana with a bolster under your knees you won’t be able to turn back. They are addictive! 😉
Some really daunting yoga poses can be made far more easily accessible with yoga blocks, especially for newbies to the mat. Do you have trouble reaching the floor in forward bends or triangle poses, for example? Blocks are your friend!
Blocks can also be great for advancing your practice! Between your knees in a backbends or shoulder stand, for example, can really intensify your experience and create some fantastic new levels of alignment!
Support, safety, extension… Wow, I love yoga straps!
They’re a dream for yogis with tight hamstrings and shoulders in so many poses, allowing you to ultimately extend your reach and get into great alignment despite any injury or stiffness.
There’s no Savasana like a Savasana with a fantastic eye pillow!
My favourites are nice and heavy, providing sweet sensory darkness and the lovely feel of slight, supportive pressure over the eyes during relaxation.
If they’re scented with Lavender or the like, even better!
Yoga blankets are great for rolling up to sit comfortably on or to support you in poses where you don’t quite need a bolster but still crave some nurturing.
They are also heaven to swathe yourself in during Savasana or many restorative/yin poses, especially during the colder months. Quality yoga blankets are woolen and weighty, and feel like a great big cuddle during your tenderest asana moments!
So, you’ve probably guessed by now… I LOVE yoga props!
So tell me yogis how do you feel about propping yourself up during your practice? Have any props made a real difference for you? What are your favourite yoga props? Let’s start sharing in the comments!
With love until next time,
P.S For any of my students are interested in ordering either a high quality yoga mat or any yoga props to support your practice either at home or in class please email me as I am just about to place a bulk order which you maybe able to receive a discount and save on postage. Please email me ASAP at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you would like to order.