Yoga Props… Support for your own self-practice
I’ve been really thrilled to hear that so many of you are keen to start or continue your own self-practice at home and are keen to know where to get your props and equipment from. Investing in your own yoga equipment can be a really good way of motivating yourself to practice more often at home.
As a minimum, I’d recommend investing in a non-slip, sticky yoga mat but have detailed below some of the other props that you may find useful. Props are exceptionally helpful to enable access to more a wider range of yoga postures and to allow for improved alignment in certain postures. I believe the use of props is the sign of a more advanced practice and provides greater understanding of when props will be most beneficial for your own body.
As a ‘one-stop shop’ for yoga props I’d recommend Yoga Matters’ own brand of props – available from www.yogamatters.com. They are good quality and long-lasting props. I usually order directly with them (there is a small delivery charge) but I believe they also sell through Amazon so it may be possible if you have Amazon Prime membership to avoid the delivery charges.
Mats: A good quality sticky yoga mat is available from yoga matters for £17. These are sufficiently long and wide and at 4.5cm thick provide decent cushioning. They currently have a couple of colours on sale for £11.90, which are really good value. Used one or two times a week, one of these would last a good couple of years.
If you’re practicing more often and would like to invest in one of the mats that will last many more years (perhaps not a lifetime, although some of the mats do purport to do so!), I have tried out a few different ones and discussed preferences with other yoga teachers and the Manduka, Jade and Liforme mats are some of the most popular brands. I often take my mat with me on my travels and so wanted one that was good quality and not too heavy and so use the Manduka prolite mat, currently £60 at yogamatters. Initially it wasn’t as sticky and non-slip as other mats I’ve had, but after wearing it in it is now an excellent mat and you’re welcome to try it out if you’re at one of my lessons.
Bricks and Blocks: I’d recommend two brick shape blocks (£6.50) and one larger, narrower foam block (£5.50, although a couple of colours also on sale for less). The brick shape blocks are also available in cork or wood at a higher price – these can offer greater stability if you’re leaning onto the bricks from a standing position, but I find the foam bricks to be sufficiently stable. The bricks are useful for moving from standing into forward bends, coming down into squats, sitting in meditation, especially in Virasana (kneeling seated posture), moving into other standing postures where the distance between arms and floor is too great and as support in some lying postures.
The foam block provides a useful support in the majority of seated postures, enabling there to be a forward tilt in the pelvis and preventing rounding in the lower back. For the foam block, alternatives from around the house, such as thick books, or encyclopaedias (if they still exist!) or folded blankets or cushions can be useful in the seated postures. For the standing to bending postures, the yoga bricks are probably the best option.
Straps or Belts: This is one of the key bits of kit I would look to invest in as a good length strap or belt will enable you to access a range of postures with significantly more ease, including hamstring stretches, chest opening and shoulder mobility postures, looping over feet or through legs in postures such as half-happy baby or pretzel pose. There are some cheaper belts at yogamatters – shorter, narrower and with a D-ring buckle, but I would really recommend the slightly more expensive (£7.20) square buckle, wider and longer belt. This is long enough for a wider range of postures and when looped the square buckle will hold firm, whereas the D-buckle is not always secure. If you don’t want to invest in one of these at the outset, a sturdy dressing gown belt or long, wide belt you may have could be a useful interim option.
Bolsters: Bolsters are one of the more expensive bits of kit you can invest in for your yoga prop cupboard. They provide great support in many supine (lying) postures, especially in yin yoga and so I use them frequently in my own practice and teachings. In my lessons, I use the yogamatters bolsters (currently £38 but there is one less popular coral colour currently available for £22.80!) that are filled with recron and provide a firm and stable bolster. There are also bolsters that are filled with buckwheat (I have one of these and you’re welcome to try it as an alternative) that are good - they are a bit smaller than the ones I use in lessons and sometimes a bit less stable, but mould well to the body once in position. Yogamatters are currently selling these for £36. As with all the above, there are many other brands, usually more expensive, but the fillings are usually the same. Some have more expensive outer covers or nicer colours or patterns, but they do the same fundamental job. If you don’t want to invest in a bolster just yet, two pillows from your bed wrapped tightly in a towel can provide a similar support.
Blankets: Blankets are helpful to provide support for the head, seated postures and to use as a nice cosy blanket in final relaxation (savasana). I have invested in the fleece type ones for my lessons, as they are warmer and cosier in the cooler weather and are currently available for £25 from yogamatters, although there are lots of cheaper options elsewhere (e.g. Ikea! although sometimes these can create a bit of static). There are heavier, cotton ones available that I have also tried. They can be more useful if using as a sturdier prop for seated postures, but I find them a bit itchy and not as nice in final relaxation.
Eye pillows: Eye pillows are like the icing on the cake as you move into final relaxation. They help to block out the light and enable you to fully rest and relax. Some are filled with nice smelling fillings, such as lavender. Yogamatters provide a basic one for £6.00 or a nice smelling one for £9.50. Alternatively, I can make you one filled with organic linseeds and dried lavender for £9 – handmade by me in my upholstery studio on the Marsh 😊
As you may see from looking around more on the yogamatters website, there are loads of other types of props – meditation cushions, sandbags, spiky balls (good for massaging the connective tissue on the soles of the feet) and so on and the more you practice, the more you may want to add to your store. But to start with, a good mat and strap will probably be good options.