If you’ve been to a yoga studio it’s likely you’ve tried (or at least seen) a selection of yoga props. In my own experience the props used vary a lot by class style, teacher and even studio. The first yoga studio I attended in Melbourne used straps at the beginning of every class to flex and stretch the legs, yet I haven't been to a studio that’s used these in the same way since.
What I mean to say from this is that the use of props is completely individual to your own practice and intention for a class.
There’s a misconception around prop use: that they should be relegated to beginners. In reality, this mindset is ultimately self-limiting (and sometimes ego-driven). To use a yoga prop is to acknowledge your limitations whilst seeking a deeper practice — whether that is through stabilising support, extended reach or yielding deeper into a posture with the use of a prop.
Every class or practice is different, as is every individual. As Pippa Richardson writes for Yoga Matters,
“The more we understand our individual make up, anatomy and biomechanics, we see that no body is the same. Every single body needs something different in every single pose and props are just a wonderful way of supporting our unique structure”.
If you’ve been hesitant to use a block, bolster or other yoga prop, we hope this article allows you to see the transformative and restorative potential of props.
Let’s begin with the basics…
What are yoga props?
Yoga props are objects used to aid yoga postures. They did not come into use until the mid-twentieth century and were popularised during this time by B. K. S. Iyengar in his practice. There are many kinds of yoga props available from bolsters, straps, blankets, eye cushions and blocks at a basic level, to more ergonomic, pose-specific props such as wall ropes for inversion.
Why use yoga props?
Yoga props can be used actively or passively, to transform or to restore.
When used actively, a prop can be used to explore new postures without risking overextension - for example in Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) a block could be used where one cannot comfortably touch the floor with their hand or fingertips.
In the same way, a yoga block can be used to support and stabilise as you ease into new postures. Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) is a standing asana that requires considerable balance. This can be challenging for beginners, so a block can be used for support until they are comfortable without. Yoga props, like blocks or straps, make poses accessible to all bodies and levels of practice.
When used in restorative yoga, props are used (sometimes many at a time) to support the body so that it can surrender into each passive posture with ease and complete comfort. This kind of slow and supported practice stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which in turn reduces stress, shallow chest breathing and anxiety.
This effect is described by Jillian Pransky in Yoga Journal,
“Well-propped restorative poses can offer us the experience of being cradled and protected while providing the opportunity for deep relaxation and rejuvenation. This also allows our parasympathetic nervous system to initiate the relaxation response—something that only happens when we truly feel safe.”
Of course yoga at its core can be practiced anywhere without the addition of props, but if you are looking to advance your current practice, or conversely looking to slow down and turn inwards with restorative postures then a few simple props can completely transform your experience.
Here are a few of our favourite pieces…
Our pure buckwheat yoga bolsters are a firm, cylindrical cushion designed to provide support, intensify stretching and deepen your resting. It is a versatile prop that can be used in both active or passive postures, and also as a meditation cushion to prop the sit bones and support your posture when in a lotus or cross legged position.
A yoga bolster is a commonly used prop for restorative yoga as it allows you to melt into a pose, letting go of tension as you do. Some of our favourite postures for use with a buckwheat yoga bolster include Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle), Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall), and Balasana (Child’s Pose).
Bolsters vary by size, fillings, covers, and weight. We fill our 100% cotton yoga bolsters with pure buckwheat filling as it is firm yet malleable (don't worry, they're safe in an inner-lining to prevent spillage!). It moulds to your body as you move through positions. Our washable and removable covers come in two subtle colours - oatmeal and dusk - to blend into your bedroom, living room or sacred meditation space.
Cork Yoga Block
We have used both cork and foam blocks in our practice and found that each perform similarly in providing support, strength and extension. We chose to stock cork yoga blocks from Meg as, unlike foam alternatives, these all-natural cork yoga blocks are biodegradable, naturally anti-microbial and non-toxic.
Meg cork yoga blocks are thoughtfully designed by co-founders Lillie and Gabriel who began the brand after feeling frustrated with the lack of sustainable exercise equipment.
Our favourite postures that can be supported with a yoga block include Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge) where a block can be placed under the sacrum for support and to stretch the hip flexors (I find this provides incredible relief for tension in my lower back) and Matsyasana (Fish Pose) for a chest opener and shoulder stretch.
Unsure where to start? Discover our complete range of yoga bolsters, eco yoga mats, meditation cushions, cork yoga blocks and other thoughtful pieces for your practice here.