A yoga mat is the most important piece of “equipment” you need to begin a yoga practice. And to be honest, if you want to begin and you don’t have a mat, a beach towel or even the floor will work until you can purchase a mat. You can refer to my blog entitled Purchasing Your Yoga Mat for some tips on making this important purchase.
There are other pieces of equipment, commonly referred to as “props” that are nice to have. I’ve been practicing yoga for over 20 years, and I use props every time I practice. Props make it easier and more comfortable to get into and out of certain poses, and also helps you maintain proper alignment to reduce the chance of injury. Yoga, just like any other activity, must be practiced with safety in mind. Using props is a great way to deepen your experience and understanding of the yoga poses.
Let’s look at 3 types of props: blocks, straps, and knee pads.
Blocks come in 2 common sizes – 3”x4”x6” and 4”x4”x6”. They are usually made from cork, wood, and foam.
Generally, blocks help bring the floor up. Imagine bending over from your waist to touch the floor. Most people can’t do that without bending their knees deeply. You can place your hands on a block, therefore, bringing the floor “up” so you can reach it easier, with just a slight bend in the knees. This helps you to stretch your hamstrings and low back safely.
Blocks can be used on the low, medium, or high end, depending on how much height you need.
Straps are generally 6 to 10 feet in length. Some have d-rings and some have buckles.
Generally, straps help to make your arms longer. Imagine sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and trying to reach your toes. Using a strap around your feet helps you feel the pose just like someone who can hold on to their feet without a strap. The benefits are the same!
If you don’t have a strap, you can use a men’s tie, a belt or a bathrobe tie.
Knee pads are becoming more and more popular. Knee pads are usually about 8” x 15” x 1”, but you can also find them larger and thicker.
Knee pads help to cushion your knees. Most yoga mats are 3/16” thick and very firm. Knee pads give you an extra inch or so of padding.
They can be used when needed and then put to the side easily during practice.
If you have tender or injured knees, I highly recommend using a knee pad to protect them and help you feel more comfortable in kneeling poses.
We use garden knee pads at our studio. They work great and cost $1.00 at the Dollar Store!
Although these props are not necessary, investing in them may make a big difference in your practice. Research, read reviews, and. ask your yoga teachers and fellow students for advice when deciding what to purchase. Ultimately, the decision to prop or not to prop is yours…listen to your body and it will tell you what it needs.
Author: Mrs Lori Redlinger, Yoga Provider