It’s unfortunate that somewhere along the way, using Yoga props began to be seen as a crutch or weakness. That the mere thought of using a block in triangle pose showed that you weren’t a ‘good yogi’ (whatever that means). Well, I think the total opposite is true – using props thoughtfully can take your practice to a whole other level. Using Yoga props also shows that you are listening to your body and responding to its needs.
In the beginning, especially if your practice is predominantly at home, using pillows, books, and towels is a good place to start – but one day you’ll want to upgrade and stop faffing around with makeshift props.
It’s like learning to ski on an old pair of heavy cumbersome skies – you get the idea of skiing, but it’s uncomfortable at times and seems to be a lot harder than it really should be! Then one day you try skiing with a good pair of skis that fit you properly – you begin to float and glide through your run with more ease.
Good props will also allow you to float and glide through your poses with ease!
This is especially true for Restorative Yoga as props are an integral part of the practice.
The goal of restorative is to have your body completely supported so that the connective tissue and muscles can ‘release’ as opposed to ‘stretch’ (as you would in a flow class). When the muscles and tissues soften, our body will move into the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) which counterbalances the stress reaction in our body and flushes the stress hormones.
During my restorative Yoga teacher training with Judith Hanson-Lasater, we spent hours learning how to fold a blanket properly, the exact placement of props to support every joint in the body (including the fingers!), and down to the centimeter measurement of bolster and blanket placement. We take our props very seriously in Restorative Yoga!
Where should you begin in your prop buying journey? Below are some tips, but check out the Fertile Body Yoga Prop Shop for my personal recommendations. One less thing for you to have to research!
First, get yourself a Yoga mat. There are so many out there it’s hard to know where to begin. Most important to keep in mind when purchasing a mat is what it’s made of. The cheap yoga mats are made of nasty chemicals (PVC, PER, PU) that are hormone disruptors – yes, you heard that right! The hormone most likely to be effected – estrogen. So let’s say NO tempted to the cheap Yoga mat at Target please. Natural rubber, Jute, and cork are good options.
The hardest props to mimic at home are bolsters and blocks.
I like one rectangular and one round bolster. That might seem overwhelming for someone getting into the prop game, so if you want to go for only one, I would recommend the rectangular as it is more versatile overall and more dense than fluffy!
Blocks should be bought as a pair – much more useful overall. Cork blocks are sturdier overall and better for the environment. Whereas foam blocks are nicer when up against the body and are less expensive.
Blankets would be my next purchase. Towels are a great substitute, but good Yoga blankets will give you consistency in density and shape. Although I like to practice with 6 blankets (yes 6!) 2 – 4 would suffice. Blankets can also be rolled up to mimic round bolsters.
And finally eye pillows. The pièce de résistance of any restorative pose. Bringing in the weight and stillness to the eyes is like an instant mini-vacation for the mind. Add a little scent into the mix and it can be pure heaven. Look for organic materials and washable covers.
Remember – I’ve done all the research for you – so check out my top recommendations for Mats, Bolsters, Blocks, Straps, and Eye Pillows.