5 Yoga Props for your Home Practice: Buying vs. Repurposing

As a teacher, one of the questions I frequently get from students, especially prospective students and those just starting their yoga journey, is: I want to try this, but what do I need in order to do yoga?


It's such a great question, because yoga props can be quite an investment if you start ordering top-of-the-line items. The answer is, you don't absolutely need props to practice yoga; however, I like to recommend a few commonly used items that support comfort, stability, and safety while practicing. The best part is, these most commonly used props can actually be resourced by repurposing household items that you may already have.


Below, I will highlight some of the quintessential yoga props and accessories that you can either purchase or repurpose.


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Yoga Mat:

Yoga mats are the most commonly used and widely recognized of the yoga props. Also frequently referred to as "sticky mats," they are used to enhance the support and stability of your practice surface.

Buying - Here we enter a wide price-range of items, whether you're looking online, or shopping in a store, yoga mats can range in price drastically. Two key factors you might look for in purchasing a yoga mat include: grip and thickness. Yoga can get sweaty. You probably don't want to be in Downward Facing Dog with sweaty palms on a slippery surface. If you're looking to invest in a yoga mat, look for one that has a non-slip rubber surface. The second quality I look for in a mat is thickness. This, for me, is all about comfort and support. I tend to like my mats in the 6mm thickness range because they're not bulky, but they offer some nice support, especially when your practice takes you on your back, or on hands and knees.


Repurposing - You can practice outside, or indoors without a mat, but be mindful that your surface is not too hard, or too slippery - you want to avoid injury and joint stress. A throw rug, carpeting, or even a large towel or bathmat can be a practice space for you, as long as you feel stable and your surface is secure when you move around.


Yoga Blocks:

Blocks can be really handy, and great tools to support healthy and safe alignment in yoga postures, as well as to help with balance, and providing you with a way to raise the ground up to you (for those of us with tighter hamstrings, think Standing Forward Fold).


Buying - In terms of the investment, blocks tend to commonly be between $15 - $30 for a set of two, depending on where you look. If you're looking to purchase blocks, I recommend foam blocks measuring 4x6x9 inches. They're lightweight, easy to find, and often have a less expensive price-point than the wooden blocks. You can also find cork blocks, which will be similar to the foam blocks in support and weight.


Repurposing - You can fashion your own blocks using a thick book or two, and wrapping them in a towel for postures where cushioning is desired (Supported Bridge Pose is one that comes to mind). If you want to get crafty and you're handy with a saw, have some spare lumber lying around (this frequently seems to be the case at my house), and some wood glue, you can make your own wooden blocks. You'll want to shoot for that 4x6x9 inch measurement (click here for a YouTube tutorial**).


Yoga Strap:

Straps can be divine if you are looking to increase your flexibility, particularly if you tend toward tight hamstrings and shoulders like yours truly. A strap is simply a long piece of woven fabric, most commonly cotton, that has a buckle on one end for creating a loop if needed.


Buying - Most yoga straps will be a $5 - $15 investment. There is no real need to spend more than that on a strap. One thing you will want to pay attention to is length. I like a longer strap (around 6ft in length), because I always have the option of folding it in half if I don't need to use the full length in that moment.


Repurposing - This is probably the easiest prop to find within your everyday household items. In place of purchasing a strap, you can use a tie, belt, thin scarf, a jump rope, or the belt of a bathrobe. Again, my recommendation is to opt for longer items, with a woven cloth belt being my top choice here, due to the option to use the buckle to create an easy loop if needed.


Yoga Cushion or Bolster:

While cushions and bolsters are two separate types of props, I lump them together here because if you're looking to repurpose these props using household items, the process will be similar. Both cushions and bolsters can be used for meditation, as well as in yoga postures themselves. If you've ever practiced restorative yoga, a bolster can be a highly utilized item. A bolster will typically be longer in length than a cushion, as a frequent use for it is to support the length of the torso in different postures. I often use a cushion in seated postures to raise my hips above the height of my knees, which tends to naturally tilt my pelvis forward to create more length in my spine.


Buying - Cushions and bolsters can be a pricey addition to your yoga toolbox, but many would argue that they don't regret this purchase if they are regularly used in your home practice. Personally, I spent $35 on my cushion, and $60 on my bolster, which were fairly low price-points, and certainly an investment. Two key factors to look for are firmness/support and believe it or not, removable covers for easy washing. Unless your home practice space is pristine, these will collect dust, dirt, and in my case lots and lots (and LOTS) of pet hair. In fact, my dog has pretty much decided that the cushions and bolsters I use at home are his, which means that the cushion and bolster covers regularly need to get washed. The other important thing to look for is support and firmness. Because these items are typically used to support body weight, you want them to be firm enough to retain their shape while simultaneously accommodating and supporting your body.


Repurposing - You can use pillows, a large folded blanket, or couch cushions in place of buying a yoga cushion or bolster. For a cushion, even a thick throw pillow will work wonders in stabilizing hips and lengthening the spine as you sit. If repurposing to create a bolster, you'll want to aim for this support to be about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and 6-8 inches thick. When I first started practicing, I would use a gel pillow wrapped in a large towel for this purpose.


Yoga Blanket:

A blanket is an all-around great prop to use in your practice. As previously mentioned, it can double as a cushion. More than that, blankets can be folded in half to lay underneath you for extra padding while laying down, they can provide additional support for tender areas such as knees and wrists, or provide warmth as the body enters its cool-down period during savasana (the resting phase of practice).


Buying - If you feel inclined to purchase a yoga blanket, you will find a wide variance in price and quality. Most traditional yoga blankets are thick, woven cotton or wool blankets, of a Mexican or Peruvian style. The benefit to these is that when folded, they tend to retain their shape very well and can withstand heavy use.


Repurposing - If you've got a blanket, you've got a yoga blanket! - and, if you're a fan of the fiber arts and want a new project while you binge-watch your favorite tv show, you can knit or crochet your own yoga blanket (check out some of the patterns on Pinterest or Ravelry). One thing I'd advise against is using a plush blanket because they tend to have a slippery quality to them.


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The big take-home message here is that yoga does not have to involve owning the most expensive or extensive collection of props. Your practice is exactly that- your practice. Make it your own. You can buy or repurpose, or work with a hybrid of some purchased items and some make-shift items. As long as you feel good, safe, and happy with your home practice, that's all that really matters.


My belief is that yoga works from the inside out, and should be accessible to everyone. Play, experiment, and see what works for you!


Jai Bhagwan beautiful yogis!

 

** Jeff Marx. "Making Wooden Yoga Blocks." March 30, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJHHKssD9Bo

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