Using props like blocks or bolsters can make yoga poses more comfortable and help with your alignment. Most yoga studios will have some basic props but in your home practice, these yoga accessories can take up plenty of space and cash.
But really you don’t need to buy anything. There are many items found around the house that will work just as well.
Blocks are mainly used for creating extra height. For example raising the hips in seated poses like Sukhasana (Easy Pose) to allow the spine to keep its natural curves, instead of the lower back rounding out.
In place of blocks for seated poses you can use firm cushions, folded blankets or a stack of books.
You will also see blocks used in standing poses such as Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose) where the hands don’t easily reach the floor. For these poses you want something you can move quickly from one side of the mat to the other – so something like a coffee jar or a sturdy box will do.
Blocks can also be used for intensifying poses – holding one between the thighs in Dolphin Pose or Navasana (Boat Pose) can be a reminder to ‘draw into the mid-line’. A rolled up towel will give you the same effect.
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Sitting on a meditation cushion raises your hips above your knees so that your spine can be upright. Even if you don’t use props for regular seated poses, most people still like something to sit on for longer meditation sessions.
It is worth investing in a meditation cushion if you want to make it part of your daily practice. If you have less to prepare in the morning you’re more likely to stick with the habit.
However, you can also use regular cushions, stacked blankets or even just find a chair you can sit upright in. Experiment with different heights and sitting positions so that you know what style of cushion to get if you do decide to buy one.
You can find tutorials to make your own meditation (or Zafu) cushions online like this one.
You will see bolsters used in Restorative classes, for example to lie back on in Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose) or under the knees in Savasana. Getting your props set up right in restorative poses can make all the difference between a healing practice and a frustrating one. The trouble is that even if you have one at home they don’t exactly fit in your hand luggage for your post-travel yoga.
To make a hotel room bolster if you have been travelling take two pillows and lay them side by side on top of the short edge of a towel. Wrap the towel around them so you have a sausage shape to put under your back in Legs up the wall pose.
If you have a sofa or chair with removable cushions these are likely to be firmer and will give more support than regular cushions. You can also use two or three blankets rolled up together.
Yoga belt or strap
In most cases a yoga belt is simply an extension of your arm. For example to wrap around your foot in Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose) so that your back and leg stay straight instead of crunching up, or to hold between your hands if they don’t reach in Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) or binding twists. A regular belt, scarf, tie or sock will all do the job here!
Read our Best Yoga Mat Review