Stephanie's Articles

Yoga props for your home

What about yoga props?

Now that so many of us are practicing yoga online instead of in a studio, it is becoming more necessary to have our own props.


what are yoga props?

Yoga props are simply objects we use to aid us in the practice of yoga poses. Knowing that each of us is living in a unique body of different anatomy and biomechanics than anyone else, this is where props can come in handy to help us deepen our practice. Props are a wonderful tool for us to support our own unique body structure in a pose. There are a multitude of different types and sizes of props that you can choose from but there are definitely some staples that most yoga studios have on hand: mats, blocks, bolsters, blankets and straps.


what props are a good investment for a home practice?

Since many of us have transitioned to practicing yoga at home, having some props on hand for different styles of classes is always a good idea. In my opinion, the most versatile props to have are:

1. Yoga Mat

  • Investing in a yoga "sticky" mat is the first thing you will need for practicing yoga. Unlike other exercise mats, the stickiness of the yoga mat allows you to do poses without your feet or hands sliding along the mat. This stability allows you to focus on the pose instead of having to constantly readjust your hands and feet.

2. Yoga Blocks

  • These blocks are most commonly 4"x6"x9" and usually made of a dense foam. You can also find them made out of cork and wood, but these are usually pricier and aren't as comfortable to kneel on if the pose calls for it. You may also find some less expensive versions that are only 3" thick instead of the 4" and these can be useful in a number of poses, but I personally find the 4" version to be the most versatile and stable for most yoga practices. Many sports stores sell yoga blocks and you can even find them at stores like Winners from time to time. Just be mindful of whether you would prefer the 3" or 4" thickness as you make your purchase.

3. Yoga Blanket

  • Having one yoga blanket on hand is a very simple yet effective prop to have. You can sit on it for some additional height during meditation, which helps to alleviate rounding of the spine and straining of the hip flexors. In my own practice I enjoy using it as padding under my knees when I know that I will be on my knees for a few poses. Using it as a little pillow or as a full body covering during savasana makes the pose extra sweet! There are many creative ways to use it during active practice as well, but we will save that for another time. :) The typical yoga blanket measures somewhere around 74" x 52", but it often varies around this size and there is no need to be too particular as long as it isn't much smaller than these dimensions.

4. Yoga Strap

  • This is a simple little prop to have handy when trying to reach your limbs that you can't quite reach yet. Wrapping it around the base of the foot in poses such as Extended Hand to Big Toe pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana) is a very common use of the strap. It can also be used in binds and to help with preparations for more advanced arm balances. In restorative yoga it is a helpful tool which allows the muscles to relax fully into the pose. When it comes to choosing a strap, you may find them in 6', 8' and 10' lengths. Having an 8' strap is what I would recommend as this is a versatile length and can accommodate pretty much any use. Sometimes the 6' straps can end up being a little short, especially for taller yogis.

5. Yoga Bolster

  • Bolsters are used extensively in both restorative and yin yoga, but are also sometimes used in hatha classes. In restorative classes they are used to build up supports for the body to release onto so that the body can rest deeply into the pose. There are many sizes and shapes of bolsters to choose from which can be overwhelming. See more on bolsters below.


props in restorative yoga

Restorative yoga is the style of yoga that relies most heavily on props. Although you can do a few poses with just a couple of blocks and a blanket, having enough props to support the needs of your own body is ideal and there are so many delicious poses that can be explored with extra props. Bolsters play an important role, so having one good bolster on hand is the way to go.

In my restorative practice I find that a nice long rectangular bolster is wonderful to have on hand so that I can lay on the bolster in a variety of poses. Some companies, such as Halfmoon, specifically identify their long rectangular bolsters as "restorative" bolsters. These bolsters are about 4" longer than the traditional rectangular bolster so that it can run along your whole spine and support the back of the head as well. Another Canadian company that has great quality bolsters is Love My Mat. You will find that bolsters are expensive, but I can assure you that there is very little markup on them - they are just simply expensive to manufacture. Hugger Mugger is another company with great yoga products and they donate money to a different organization every quarter which is a really lovely.

To keep the body fully supported, having a few blankets on hand is essential. These can be folded or rolled to be placed as head supports, foot supports, cushioning for bonier parts of the body, and I even enjoy using them to "burrito" the arms to release arm and neck tension in some reclining poses. (This is a favourite among many of my students!) Fundamentally, restorative yoga aims release all physical and mental tensions while sinking deeply into each pose. The simple use of a blanket to cover the entire body during the pose provides the yogi with a sense of safety, as well as helps them to maintain a comfortable body temperature as their core temperature drops during deep relaxation - this in turn allows the yogi to more comfortably achieve deep rest.

Another prop that is easy to incorporate into the practice is a chair. This can be used as a support for the legs in an inversion, for the head in a forward fold, and there are even some more advanced poses that use the chair to support the body into a deep backbend/inversion. This prop is a nice addition to a restorative practice as generally we all have at least one chair at our disposal.


what if I don't have some of these props?

Homemade props are a wonderful alternative to purchasing what can sometimes be expensive props. Trying out different yoga practices with homemade props is a wonderful way to see what types of practices you like and then determining which props might be most useful and worth your investment.

There is likely an endless list of items around the house that you could use in place of traditional yoga props, but some common ones might be:

BLOCKS: thick books, sturdy bowls or pots, small step stool

BOLSTERS: stacked sleeping pillows, couch or outdoor cushions, homemade bolster roll

STRAPS: long winter scarf, bathrobe belt

BLANKETS: throw blankets, thin comforters, thicker comforter as a top blanket for restorative yoga

The most important things to consider when choosing homemade blocks is that they are sturdy and approximate the height that you are looking for. When it comes to bolsters, you want something firm and an appropriate length for your body. If you would like to make your own homemade bolster, I have created a little "how-to" video you can take a look at. Another short video you can explore is how I use some of these homemade props to create a common reclining restorative pose. You can have a look at these videos below this article.


take your time to choose props that suit your needs

In the end, making the choice between some homemade props or investing in some good quality purchased props is a very individual choice. Have a look at some of the online sites to compare pricing and styles, or experiment with things you have around the house - get creative! Today, there are many more options to buy gently used props as a number of yoga studios are selling off what their in-studio stock since it isn't being used during this long closure. Kijiji may also be a source for some reasonably priced props.

Whatever props you choose to incorporate into your practice, enjoy exploring how they make the pose and your body feel. Yoga is an endless adventure for the body and mind!


Love My Mat

A Canadian company based out of Hamilton, Ontario. Good quality products.

Hugger Mugger

A percentage of all online sales is donated to a different organization each quarter.

Halfmoon

A Canadian company based out of British Columbia. Many studios use these products.

** I am not affiliated with any of these companies in any way other than as a consumer. :)

The difference between Yin yoga and restorative yoga

What is the Difference Between Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga?

March 2020

How do we choose the right practice for our body? (click to read more...)

Did you know that yin yoga and restorative yoga are two very different practices? Although they are both antidotes to our busy “yang” culture, they have different foundations and roles to play in our overall yoga practice. Essentially, a well-rounded yoga practice will include a variety of yoga styles, including both yin and restorative.


Let’s start with how they are similar, and this may actually be where much of the confusion lies between them. There are many classes where you will see an overlap of yin and restorative yoga since both of these practices hold poses for extended periods of time and the poses often make use of props as a support. Despite their similarities, it is important to understand their differences so that you can choose the practice that your body is craving and to get the most out of your practice while you are on the mat.


To help you choose the practice that fits with your current needs (and this may change from one day to the next!), here is a brief comparison of the two styles of yoga.

THE ESSENTIALS

Yin yoga is a practice that focuses on stretching your connective tissues (ligaments, joints, bones and deep fascia networks) in order to strengthen and lengthen them. The benefits come from how the poses work with the energy meridians in your body as well as cultivating active stretch in your connective tissues.

Restorative yoga is more of a meditative practice that uses props like blocks, straps, sandbags, bolsters, and blankets to encourage a passive release of mind and body tension. It is in this passive state, through physical, mental and emotional relaxation, that we reap the many benefits of this style of yoga.

Yin vs. Restorative

Active stretch vs. Passive stretch

Challenging as well as therapeutic poses vs. Therapeutic poses

Stretching connective tissues vs. Releasing deep mind-body tension

Props used to soften or deepen the stretch vs. Props used to completely support the body

Poses are held for 3-5min vs. Poses are held for 5-20min (or longer!)

THE BENEFITS

Both yin and restorative yoga maintain many of the same benefits of most other yoga practices, but they each have their own special perks depending on what you might be looking for on any given day. They each have a variety of benefits for both the body and the mind, and in no way is this an exhaustive list, but they each do shine in their own unique ways!

Yin for the mind...

  • Calms and balances the mind and body
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Releases trauma and emotion stored in the connective tissues of the body
  • Bringing your negative thought patterns into your awareness so that you can work with them and release them

Restorative for the mind...

  • Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which reduces the stress hormones (namely cortisol) in the body
  • Creating a sense of safety in the mind and body
  • Reaching a state of deep mindful rest
  • Cultivating contentment
  • Develops qualities of compassion and understanding toward others and self
  • Enhances mood

Yin for the body...

  • Improves strength and flexibility
  • Increases circulation
  • Releases the fascia to improve joint mobility
  • Improves the health of your connective tissue
  • Balances the internal organs and improves the flow of chi or prana

Restorative for the body...

  • Enhances flexibility through tension release
  • Improves capacity for healing and balancing the internal systems
  • Balances the nervous system
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Improves sleep

Hopefully this information has helped you further your understanding of these two beautiful styles of yoga! Knowing a little about the practice is often helpful to exploring and reaping the full benefits of each class. (I must also say that there is something pretty special about settling in on the mat, opening your mind and heart, and just taking whatever the teacher has to offer that day!) If you need a little more help deciding which of these practices is the best fit, here are some other things to consider:

You may choose to practice Yin Yoga if...

  • ...you lead a very active lifestyle.
  • ...you hold onto narratives from the past that no longer serve you.
  • ...you sit at a desk most of the day.

You may choose to practice Restorative Yoga if...

  • ...you deal with an abnormal amount of stress and anxiety on a daily basis.
  • ...it is difficult for you to unwind after a normal day.
  • ...you carry muscle tension.
  • ...you struggle to find time for yourself.

Whichever practice speaks to your heart, enjoy every moment! :)


This article was written with thanks and source information from: www.theyoganomads.com, Andrea Peloso, and www.ekhartyoga.com