There Are No Keys To Success, Only Tools – Criss Jami. I have been practising Yoga for over four years now but was introduced to Yoga accessories or props only a year back by my current teacher. At first, I felt a bit doubtful about them because I thought that they were for people who were not flexible, were beginners, or had some kind of fear, injury, or disability, and I did not fall into any of those categories. However, I did not question my Guru and bought them as required. I was quickly proven wrong about their purpose and function in Yoga practice. All this while you may have been thinking what exactly are these accessories or props? Yoga accessories are supportive objects which can be used while performing asanas. They may be used for a variety of purposes and functions. Some of their key functions are stated below.
Yoga Accessories Provide Support & Stability
After I started using the props myself, I realized that they are not a crutch but a foundation to support and strengthen body alignment. Beginners can use them to safely practice asanas, with support from the props while their own bodies build strength, balance, and flexibility. Advanced practitioners can use them to strengthen their practice by receiving that extra bit of resistance, bend, pull, or push and increase the effectiveness of asanas.
Yoga Accessories Reduce Unnecessary Strain Or Risk Of Injury
Everyone has a different level of flexibility and with people of all ranges of physiques, flexibilities, and ages practising yoga, props offer an alternative, accessible variations so that everyone can experience the asanas true to their own body’s abilities and needs, rather than not trying it or risking injury, trying it without props.
Yoga Accessories Empower You to Experiment & Push Yourself
While performing a difficult Asana, a prop may provide that extra bit of courage and confidence required to get into that asana. Once you become an expert at performing that asana, you may choose to practice it without the prop.
Yoga Accessories Enhance The Staying Power
A prop can also help to stay in an asana for longer, which, in turn, develops stability: both physical and mental, concentration and poise.
Yoga Accessories Help The Body To Relax And Release Tension
If you were to try Restorative Yoga on some occasion, the comfort, support, relaxation, and warmth that some of the props can provide, would make the restoration session totally worthwhile, and you would come out of the session feeling rejuvenated and pampered.
Yoga Accessories Help To Personalize Your Practice
Props can help to customize and tailor your Yoga practice. You may use the props for a specific need or purpose, or you may want to use them for different purposes at different times: sometimes for stability, sometimes for enhanced relaxation, sometimes for an extended stretch, and so on.
Some commonly used Yoga accessories/props and their functions are as follows:
A proper Yoga mat is the most important accessory to practice Yoga. A non-slip mat that can roll or fold easily will allow your feet to get a good and firm grip while performing different asanas, thereby helping the body to balance better. Yoga mats can be of cotton, PVC, Jute, etc. depending upon one’s needs and liking.
Yoga blocks can be made of foam, wood, cork, or bamboo and are roughly the shape and size of bricks. They help in taking away some of the pressure and strain off of the muscles, which can keep fatigue at bay. Yoga blocks may be used as a way to bring the floor closer to your hands or to provide support to the back, hips, or other parts of the body. They may be placed in different positions, depending upon the need, and help your body to stabilize in an asana. They allow people to get into asanas they would otherwise not be able to. An ardha-chandrasana performed with a Yoga block would be an excellent example of what the block can do for body balance, alignment, and extension.
Straps or Belts
A Yoga strap can be used to lengthen the arms, and therefore reach or meet the other extremities of limbs, which would not have been possible otherwise. They help with better alignment, stretch, or support, achieving the maximum benefit from the asana. They may also be used while practising relaxing asanas because they help in staying in the pose for longer.
Cushions are very important for practices like meditation and Pranayams because you will achieve the goals of these practices only if you are seated in a comfortable position, not worrying about your feet and legs pressing against the hard floor. An ideal mediation cushion should elevate your pelvis so that your hips are above your knees. This allows for proper blood flow to your legs and in turn avoids numbness in legs and feet and you can sit for longer, without having a feeling of discomfort. Sitting on a floor cushion automatically cultivates a tall and erect spine, without putting in an effort. Meditation cushions are of many types, some of the well-known ones are zabuton, zafu, v-shape or crescent-shaped cushion or an up-and-down cushion.
A zabuton is a large rectangular cushion that could have a cotton or buckwheat hull filling. The buckwheat hull filling has an added advantage that the cushion will take the shape of the body without exerting pressure. The cushion is large enough for you to sit comfortably on it. Though it will not provide for an extra elevation to the pelvis, it will still be more comfortable than a Yoga mat if you want to sit in a cross-legged position.
A zafu is a circular cushion, and it could also have either cotton or buckwheat hull filling. A zafu could be used on its own or in combination with the zabuton. If used on top of a zabuton, it will elevate the pelvis and your knees will get cushioning from the zabuton. In this scenario, remember to sit on the front half of the zafu for proper alignment.
A zafu or a zabuton can be easily chosen to complement the colour scheme of your existing soft furnishings and you can keep them along with the other cushions after your practice is over. That way, you won’t have to create an additional storage space for them.
A V-Shaped or crescent-shaped Cushion slants downward from the centre towards the two ends so that it supports your entire thighs and encourages your pelvis to tilt forward. It is great for people with low back or knee issues. However, if your low back is rounded and your knees are elevated 6” or more when seated on the floor then this cushion’s thigh support won’t serve you very well.
The up-&-down cushion has two attached cushions, one slightly higher, to sit, and the other lower, for the legs to rest on. This cushion helps to achieve a perfect cross-legged sitting pose with the pelvis at a higher level than the legs and therefore the spine becoming erect and tall. This can also be placed in an L-shape against a wall when you want to sit leaning against the wall. This cushion can be easily used for other purposes in your home, especially to watch TV, or as an additional floor seating in your living room.
Perhaps one of the most beloved yoga props, bolsters can serve multiple purposes in one’s practice. First, bolsters aid in the expansion and opening of the body. Gently lying on top of the bolster which is aligned with the spine can increase the body’s ability to open and release tension while reducing potential stress on the back. Bolsters may be a great prop when you want to practice restorative Yoga.
You could also make your Yoga practice a sensory experience by using some additional accessories like tealights, scented candles, essential oil diffusers, and some soothing background music as well. These are not essential but they will surely help in setting the right environment to bring about calmness and relaxation.
Yoga accessories are useful tools for both new and experienced students. They can reduce the struggle and discomfort or avoid pain while getting into an asana altogether. However, you are the best judge of your body’s needs and therefore the decision about which accessories will be best for you should be yours. Once you are invested in the right kind of aids to take care of discomfort and make your experience smoother, your brain will be less likely to come up with excuses to skip the practice, and therefore, you will be more likely to sustain over a longer period of time. Remember, this is your journey and you should enjoy it. So, you should do whatever it takes to make this journey sustainable and joyous at the same time.
If you are a Yoga beginner or contemplating to start your home practice, you could check out my article about things to know before starting your practice, and tips to make it better. If you need help with deciding what type of Yoga will be best for you, read my article here.
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Disclaimer: The views and ideas expressed here are the author’s own and are shared to motivate readers and provide information. Please consult certified professionals before making any fitness or lifestyle changes to your routine. The author or this website cannot be held responsible for any mishaps or injuries occurring from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.