I often have students ask me for recommendations for props to buy and use in their practices. I am an advocate for using props in yoga. Whether used to make a difficult pose less so or deepen awareness of alignment in familiar poses, props are useful tools for any level of yoga practice.
Like any multi-million dollar industry, if you want a specialty item you can find it. There are a LOT of props on the market that I’ve never used. Below is a list of some of the props I am most familiar with and some brief thoughts on each. Although not all are essential, these are the props I would suggest purchasing for a home practice. Also, I’m not paid to endorse any of these products.
Yoga mats: An essential for most folks, a yoga mat provides padding and a (mostly) non-skid surface for poses. Options range from cheap open-cell mats to high-end cork mats. The frequency and style of your practice should be the determining factor on what you buy. The mat I use most is my Jade.
Blocks: Yoga blocks are used to bring the floor up to meet our body. Typically they are used under the hands in forward folds, but can also be used to support the hip and other parts of the body depending on the pose. I tend to like the smaller 3-inch blocks because they fit my hands better but most studios have 4-inch blocks.
Strap: Straps are typically used to extend the arms to reach the feet (think seated forward fold or hand-to-big-toe pose). Most straps you can pick up at sporting good or big-box stores are 6 feet long, but 8- and 10-foot options can be more useful.
Blankets: Blankets can be used to support the hips in seated poses, pad the knees in kneeling poses, and cover up during savasana. They are also a lot cheaper than bolsters, which have many of the same uses. Wool blankets offer firmer support than cotton, but I prefer cotton because I am sensitive to wool (who wants to be itchy when they’re trying to relax).
Bolsters: Bolsters tend to be pricey but are super useful, especially for sitting for long periods or if you want to practice restorative poses. Bolsters can vary a lot by shape – round versus rectangular – and size. I would suggest trying out different bolsters before buying.
This is a brief overview and I’ll try to write more on each prop in the future.