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Props - Building Your Home Practice (Pt. 1)

By Elana Love

WED JUL 21, 2021

Yoga at its core is an accessible practice. Anyone, anywhere can and should be able to do it anytime. In most cases, you don't really need anything other than yourself! And it is so versatile, that even if your body isn't functioning normally, you can still meditate, do breathwork, and implement the philosophical teachings of yoga in your daily life.

But thanks to the westernization of yoga, we often tend to have a tunnel view of what it is, and this causes us to think that we need to always go to a studio or have a teacher to practice. Don't get me wrong, these are great supportive resources for learning more, understanding better, and expanding your practice (heck, I teach yoga for a living!), but I just want to remind you that yoga is your practice, and it's nice to know that you don't always have to rely on something outside of yourself to benefit from this beautiful gift. And to have a sustainable, long-term practice, you gotta know how you can practice on your own in between your traditional yoga class! Hence, this two-part blog series: Building Your Home Practice.

This series will focus mostly on asana (postures), but as I mentioned before, don't forget about all the other aspects of yoga that are there for you to practice, anytime, anywhere!

Props

When building your home practice, you might find it useful to have some props. Props help make yoga more accessible, by supporting your body, lengthening your arms, bringing the floor closer to you, etc. Here are the five most common yoga props and options for homemade alternatives:

  • Yoga mat - This is your foundation, so obviously you want something grippy or as non-slippery as possible. Cushier mats are also a little better for your joints. Homemade Alternative: Hardwood floor (with a towel or blanket for underneath your knees), carpet, or even grass will work fine in most cases. I do not recommend a towel as it will just slip around, wrinkle up, and become a distraction. Keep it simple.
  • Blankets or towels - This one is simple, because most people have these items around their house! Just keep in mind, the firmer the blanket the better, which is why most yogis prefer to use mexican blankets (like the one pictured above).
  • Blocks - They help bring the floor closer to you in standing postures, provide more support for balances, or in supine positions, are great for squeezing in between your hands or legs when you want to practice engaging your muscles, and so much more! 1-2 blocks are helpful. Homemade Alternative: You want to look for something that is the same size and sturdiness. In the past, I've used stacks of larger books, shoeboxes (with something heavier in them), laundry detergent bottle or even a heavy-duty water-bottle filled with water! You can always lay a towel or blanket over these items if using them to support a lying down posture.
  • Strap - They lengthen your arms and help you take binds while being able to keep your spine long. Homemade Alternative: belt, robe belt, strong scarf, rope, even a towel spiraled up! You don't really want something that stretches.
  • Bolster - Great for ultimate support and cushioning in more relaxed asana practices such as yin or restorative so that your muscles can really release and stretch. Provides some support for body so that you aren't just hanging completely in the air, which could add extra strain to joints and ligaments. Homemade Alternative: There are many cases where yoga blocks can fill in for a bolster, but if you don't have any of those or you want the total comfort of a bolster, you can simply use a couch cushion or big pillows (the firmer the better). You can even make your own bolster by rolling old towels and blankets up and then wrapping them in a sheet or pillowcase and tying off the end!

For purchasing these yoga props, I personally enjoy Jade Yoga, whose natural rubber Harmony mat is the first and only professional yoga mat I've ever used! It was actually handed down to me, and has now lasted me over 10 years! Manduka (specifically their eKo line) is another great company, and cork is generally one of the most eco-friendly materials to get your yoga props in. I promote purchasing as sustainably and eco-consciously as possible, putting the research in before you buy, but at the end of the day, start with what is accessible to you and don't let your quest to find the perfect props stop you from getting started. Like I said, I myself started with hand-me-down yoga mats and zero props for the first 5+ years of practice!

Having these resources (and a nice little basket or corner for them in your home) can be a great motivator for beginning your personal home yoga practice. When you see your props, it is a reminder to spend some time on your mat and give yourself a little you time. For more tips on getting yourself to your mat, check out my 6 Tips for a More Consistent Practice, which would be a great supplement to this article!

Thanks for reading and sharing. Happy Practicing!