I hope you are happily welcoming spring, and finding energy and motivation with the beautiful days we are having! This article is a second part to the one I wrote last month about how to chose your yoga mat! If you haven’t read it, you can find it right here!
Today, we are going to talk about the other accessories to a yoga practice, as promised (blocks, straps, wheels and everything else). There are different opinions on the matter: some yogis consider them superfluous, and think that the body is self-sufficient, others are absolute fans. I admit I practiced without props for a long time in the beginning but they have proven to be really helpful in certain cases and have now become a real part of my practice. So here are my two cents on the matter. And because sometimes a picture is with a thousand words, I will be showing you all of it in pictures! Let’s go!
Let’s start with the most common prop: the block. Blocks will probably be a big help in the beginning of your practice, for a lot of poses where your hands are supposed to rest on the floor. With the blocks, your are, in a way, “bringing the floor closer to you”! You will then be able to work better on your alignement, and the positions of your hips and back.
Postures like Trikonasana, Uttitha Parsva Konasana or even Uttanasana can be practiced with a block under your hands. You will be able to avoid rounding your back to reach the ground.
A little further in your practice, they will help you practice your “jump throug” and “jump back”: by resting your hands on the blocks, you will have more space to lift your body in between your arms.
For the practice of some inversions, the blocks can also prove to be very useful (below an example of how you can use them for Pincha Mayurasana*).
In general, the blocks can also help lift the hips in a lot of seated poses, to facilitate forward folds. Maintaining a block in between your thighs can also be a hack in order to engage your legs in certain postures.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and I also advise you to look for videos or images of other inspiring ways to use the blocks in your practice. I’m sure you will have fun!
Now how do I chose them ?
There are different material and different sizes for the blocks. The most common size is approximately 20 x 10 x 8 cm, so you will be able to use all three heights to help in your practice. There are also blocks that are thinner, that you can use as a little lift for your hands.
As for the material, you will find foam blocks that have the advantage of being very affordable and very light, therefore very easy to transport if you are a nomad yogi! There are also cork blocks, that are a little heavier and a little more expensive, but that will be sturdier and more stable. I find them better for a regular use. A less common option also is the wood blocks. They are very stable as well, but much heavier and much more expensive, so probably for a more sedentary practice and for the aesthetics!
Foam blocks : less than 10€ / Cork blocks : around 10-15€ / Wood blocks : around 30€.
There are basically two reasons to use straps in your yoga practice: they will either help you as an “extension of your arms” (to reach your feet, or reach one hand to the other) or as “safety” to avoid opening your elbows or your knees too wide for example.
As an “extension”, they will help in all the postures like Eka Pada Rajakapotasana*, Dhanurasana*, Natarajasana*, or in forward folds like Paschimottanasana*.
They can also have the same use in postures where you will be looking to bind both hands together like Gomukhasana* for example.
As for the use of the straps as “safety” for the distance between your arms or legs, by circling the strap around both arms or legs (just above the elbows or the knees), you will be able to make sure you don’t open your elbows or knees to wide. This technique is really helpful in the practice of Chaturanga for example.
As for how to choose your strap, nothing too complicated: just make sure you choose one that is long enough (around 2m), a colour that does not stain too easily and a buckle that can withstand tension. You will find them between 5€ and 10€ in sports or yoga shops.
Today, I also wanted to talk to you about the YogaWheel. It is less common than the blocks and the straps, because it is rarely used in studios, but it could definitely have a place of choice in your personal practice accessories, especially if you advance into a deeper practice.
Because it rolls, you will be able to practice postures in a soft and dynamic way. A lot of heart opening poses (backbends) can benefit from being practiced with a wheel. For instance, you will be able to practice Rajakapotasana or Matsyasana with your wheel.
The wheel will also serve as support for some inversions: it can either help you stabilise your foundation or help you lift your feet off the ground in a more secure way.
Finally, you can also use your wheel to work on your flexibility in some postures, by resting your foot on top of it and slowly deepening the stretch (for Anjaneyasana or Hanumanasana for example).
Yoga Wheel : around 30€, easily found on the internet for home delivery or in any yoga shop.
Relaxation and meditation
I talked a lot about the physical practice of asanas but there are accessories for the practice of relaxation and meditation as well.
On of the accessoires that I enjoy a lot, even if I don’t get to use it very often, is the eye pillow. It is very useful at the end of the practice, when it’s Shavasana* time. It will both help block the light and warm your eye muscles for deeper relaxation. If you are into sewing, you can easily make one for yourself!
Another good ally for relaxation or restorative yoga practice is the bolster, that you can place under the back, the belly, or the back of the knees for support and comfort.
For the practice of meditation, there are meditation cushions that will help elevate the hips for a more comfortable and longer seated position. You will find round ones, filled with spelt or buckwheat grains, which are pretty soft and hug the shape of your hips, or others. The rectangular ones, filled with foam, are harder and taller for a more stable and firm seat.
To complete their meditation space, some people add a bigger flat cushion underneath the cushion for the knees and the feet to be supported. The choice here is completely personal, and if you are sensitive to it, you can choose the colour of your attire to match what your are expecting from your meditation practice (green for balance, blue for relaxation, black for deep inward focus…).
Eye pillow: less than 10€ / Bolster: from 30€ to 50€ / Cushions: between 20€ and 50€ depending on the type you choose.
The inversion bench
There is one last thing I would love to talk to you about: the inversion bench, which is getting more and more popular. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try one myself. That being said, I have heard wonderful things about them. They will help you work on your inversions with your shoulders resting on the bench, therefore in a way that is more secure and less strenuous for your shoulders and cervical spine. While I try to find one to try out and talk to you about in another article, I would love to hear what you think about them if you have tried it!
So my friends, here is what I wanted to share with you all about accessories and how I use them in my practice. Of course, if you are starting the practice, I suggest you wait a little until you buy the props, use the studio’s accessories or some alternatives (pile of books as a block, belt as a strap…) until you have practiced enough to know what you will really need.
I hope this little series will be helpful for you (if you have missed part 1 on how to chose your mat, you can read it right here) and maybe inspired you to get your equipement to start a home practice!
Have a good practice! I would love to know what you think about all this, so don’t hesitate to comment below 😉
* All of the postures are indicated in sanskrit for simplicity and uniformity, you can easily google them for better visualisation 😉