how to use yoga props – blocks, straps, bolsters, wheels
Published: 05-06-2022 - Last Edited: 08-03-2023
Yoga prop exercises & stretches
When you’re new to yoga, everyone else appears to be so flexible and glides into the poses like silk it’s easy to feel discouraged. Don’t give up just yet, though. There are multiple tools that can aid you in advancing and growing, and actually, there are numerous benefits of using props. This is an ultimate guide to yoga prop exercises and how to properly use props including yoga blocks, straps, yoga bolsters, and wheels.
Table of contents
- Yoga prop exercises & stretches
- Yoga Props for beginners
- Yoga props for the injured
- Yoga props for those who want to progress
- Holding positions for an extended time = Yoga props for deeper stretch
- Use yoga props when you’re feeling under the weather
- 2. How to use Yoga props – Yoga blocks
- Extended side angle – Yoga block exercise
- Triangle pose – Yoga block exercise
- Camel pose – Yoga block exercise
- Puppy pose – Yoga block exercise
- Pigeon pose
- 3. How to use props – Yoga Bolsters
- Hero pose (Virasan)
- Supported Reclined Bound Angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
- Pigeon Pose
- Wide-angle seated forward bend
- 4. How to use Yoga props – Yoga Wheels
- Back Stretch
- Back Pain Treatment
- Support for Backbends
- 5. Knee Pads
Yoga Props for beginners
When you force yourself into a posture, it’s not only unpleasant, but it also doesn’t provide the benefits it should because your body isn’t aligned correctly.
This is especially true when you are a beginner. Props can be extremely beneficial in the beginning stages.
Props can assist you in understanding your body’s range of motion and guiding you in proper alignment.
Instead of being in agony and wanting the position would end soon, you can enhance awareness of alignment and muscle activation by using a yoga prop and staying in the pose for a long time.
Yoga props for the injured
Using props can also help you alter your practice in reaction to your injury, pain, or intensity, which can help you avoid futher injuries.
Yoga props for those who want to progress
After achieving a certain amount of flexibility and muscle strength to the point where you can practice comfortably, you may find yourself stuck in the same routine and level of yoga practice, unable to progress.
It’s because one’s flexibility or range of motion must be pushed beyond its limits to progress.
However, additional assistance is frequently required to achieve this level of intensity, and props can do just that. You can progressively develop your flexibility by utilizing props. As you go into increasingly difficult postures, these props can assist.
As previously stated, mastering a new posture should not be the primary goal of your yoga practice. Still, it certainly is motivating and makes us feel good about our practice and grateful for the things our bodies can do.
We may access poses that were previously difficult for us and obtain a sense of how the pose should feel by using a prop.
In King Pigeon, for example, my foot does not yet touch my head, but by using a strap, I now know how to coordinate my hips and arms.
The same is true for any other posture: if you keep practicing a difficult pose with a strap and proper alignment, you’ll ultimately be able to do the full pose without any props.
Holding positions for an extended time = Yoga props for deeper stretch
Props are especially vital while practicing Yin yoga, where you have to maintain positions for longer periods of time.
Props can help you hold restorative positions for extended periods of time by supporting your body and reducing muscular strain. Your stretches will feel not just deeper but also much better as a result of the improved alignment.
Use yoga props when you’re feeling under the weather
Your body state will vary. You may feel stiff and blocked on some days, and you may not be able to access some poses or range of motion as easily as you did previously. And prop exercises are fantastic for this.
Some days, you may want to take a more therapeutic and soothing approach rather than pushing your body too hard. Props are ideal for accomplishing this goal.
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For novices, these are some of the handiest props. However, tools are only valuable if you understand how to use them. Here are some of the most useful props, along with instructions on how to utilize them.
1. How to use Yoga props – Straps
Straps are pretty helpful when trying to increase flexibility, and it is also good when executing extended poses too.
If you don’t have a strap on hand, you can start with a towel, a scarf, or a belt. Here are some poses you can go further with the help of straps. Here are some guide to how to use yoga straps.
Seated Forward Fold
Hold the ends of the strap and wrap it around your feet with both hands. Pull yourself forward, keeping your spine long until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs.
Seated Forward Fold is an excellent hamstring stretch that is frequently overlooked owing to poor alignment.
People’s backs are often round because they cannot stretch their hands to touch their feet or legs due to a lack of length.
Bow pose is a great chest opener to prepare yourself for backbends and improve shoulder mobility. However, if you’re just getting started and have tight shoulders, this pose can be really uncomfortable.
Using a yoga strap can give you an extra length for your arms, making the backbend and chest opening more gentle. If you don’t have enough flexibility to properly extend back towards your feet, using a strap in Bow can help you with those extra lengths.
It also makes the backbend much gentler and helps your body to move into the bend more smoothly.
Use a strap if you don’t have the flexibility to clasp your hands in bound yoga poses. Reduce the length of your grip on the yoga strap as you progress until you can clasp your hands without collapsing your chest and shoulders.
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King Pigeon Pose
Starting in a pigeon pose, bend the back leg and wrap your strap over the foot. Adjust the distance between hands and foot as much as your flexibility allows by holding the end of the strap with both hands over your head.
Cow face arms
People with tight shoulders frequently find it challenging to clasp hands behind their backs. A yoga strap allows you to change the pose while still receiving all of the stretch’s advantages.
Grab the strap with both hands and shorten your grip as you proceed through the position.
Straps were beneficial to me because I had tight shoulders and arms with limited movement.
Stretches for the shoulders
I like to keep a strap on my work desk during my breaks and stretch my shoulders. Begin by sitting or standing with a neutral spine and both hands wider than your shoulders, holding a strap above your head.
Slowly bring the arms back and down, then back up on the troublesome region. You can make as many adjustments to the strap as you need to feel your shoulders and chest stretch.
2. How to use Yoga props – Yoga blocks
Blocks are another frequently used prop. You can utilize a block to help you accomplish any posture when reaching the ground feels like a stretch by bringing the floor “closer to you.”
For instance, when your hands don’t reach the floor easily in a lunge, your back will get rounded, which is not what you want.
By placing a block beneath each hand, you can maintain a long spine and do the position properly. Here are some examples of how you can use blocks.
Extended side angle – Yoga block exercise
Place your hand inside or outside the front foot on the block.
Start with the highest setting on the block and gradually lower it as your flexibility improves until you can place your hand on the mat.
Triangle pose – Yoga block exercise
Instead of placing your hand on your ankle or shin in the Triangle pose, place a block inside or outside the foot.
The block can help you focus on lifting your chest and stretching through your fingertips by providing extra stability.
Camel pose – Yoga block exercise
For this Camel position variation, place two blocks on the outsides of your shins or ankles. This will let you stay in the backbend without the worry of collapsing or injuring your back.
Start with the highest setting and gradually lower the blocks as you gain experience.
Puppy pose – Yoga block exercise
Blocks can also assist you in deepening your stretch. This Puppy pose variation with blocks under the elbows stretches the chest and shoulders more deeply.
If your hip is lifted too far off the ground and you can’t keep your hips on the same level, put a block under it. To make the Sleeping Pigeon pose more comfortable, lay a block under your forehead and rest.
Oversplits are a terrific method to extend your backbend and split. If you are comfortable in a complete split on the ground, you will probably accomplish an oversplit with no problem.
To achieve this, stack some blocks on top of each other and reach your hips down to the ground with your front leg to intensify the stretch.
Inhale and pull your spine up using the back bind to work the oversplit. Extend arms behind your head.
3. How to use props – Yoga Bolsters
A yoga bolster is a firm pillow or cushion used to support you while performing certain yoga positions. Bolsters are available in various forms and sizes, including rectangular and round, thin and thick, and natural and synthetic materials.
Bolsters are used in Yin yoga, prenatal yoga, and restorative yoga courses, where the added cushion can deepen the stretch without putting strain on joints and bones.
A pillow can conform to your body shape, whereas with blocks, you would require several to truly support your entire body. Yoga bolsters also provide height and support for the heart and hip flexors.
Your mat may not always be sufficient. Therefore, knowing how to use a yoga bolster can provide an additional cushion for optimal comfort between you and the floor. Here are some poses that can use yoga bolsters.
Hero pose (Virasan)
The internal rotation of the thighs and hips makes Hero pose difficult for many people. This is probably one of the most tiring poses to be in without knowing how to use a yoga bolster. It’s much easier to sit between your heels with a bolster and still get a quadriceps stretch, lumbar strengthening, and low back release.
Start in a tabletop position, with your knees about hip-width apart. Place a bolster between your legs lengthwise, bend your knees more, and sit back on it under your tailbone.
Place a folded blanket underneath your knees for more cushion if this is too unpleasant for your joints.
Supported Reclined Bound Angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Take a deep breath and exhale to return to Hero Pose and recline over the bolster into Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana).
Allow your knees to drop open to each side like a butterfly by pressing the soles of your feet together. Shift your tailbone from side to side on the bolster until your spine lengthens.
With your hands up, open your elbows to your side. Feel your hip flexors and lower back loosen as you breathe and relax into the bolster.
Pigeon Pose can be challenging for anyone with tight hip flexors. In this pose, your thigh is externally rotated, and stress is put on your lower back, and this pose can be quite painful.
Knowing how to use a bolster can immediately solve the situation.
First, Bring the leg under your chest, and fold the knee outward and foot toward the opposite hip. With tight hip flexors and glutes, your hips could still be elevated, not touching the floor.
Here, put the bolster under your hips. As your glute is comfortably resting on the bolster or the pillow, your bent knee will be raised.
The support underneath will relieve stress on your knee and hip flexors, and you can fully enjoy the stretch. If you feel comfortable after a while, you can remove the bolster and go for a deeper stretch.
Wide-angle seated forward bend
This is another challenging hip opener for those with little flexibility. You can use a bolster to fully relax in the position while remaining extended, rather than bending the spine and driving the body into misalignment.
Begin by sitting with your legs extended in front of you.
Place a bolster between your legs, lengthwise. Inhale and stretch your spine completely.
Exhale and bend your knees, extending forward with your hands while your chest melts over the bolster between your legs. Don’t worry if you can’t go very far; as long as you keep your spine straight, you’ll get all the hip-opening benefits. Stretch and relax.
4. How to use Yoga props – Yoga Wheels
A yoga wheel is a huge hollow wheel used to stretch and release tension in the back, belly, hips, and chest muscles.
You can also roll out your spine with a yoga wheel. Most yoga wheels are made of plastic or wood, with some even having a cork lining for added traction.
Yoga wheels are intended for more advanced practitioners, so novices should practice with alternative props first.
Yoga wheels are excellent props for stretching and opening the chest and back. A yoga wheel gives you the deep stretch you want without the risk of injuring yourself since it provides sturdy yet pleasant support.
You can achieve a deeper or milder stretch depending on how you use the yoga wheel.
And The wheel keeps you in optimal alignment as you lengthen and stretch thanks to its balanced cylindrical design that flows with the body’s natural curves. A larger yoga wheel provides a more intense stretch, whilst mini yoga wheels provide a milder spinal extension.
For a deeper stretch, try Child’s Pose. You can use the wheel as a higher platform for your hands in Child’s Pose.
You can get a deeper upper body stretch by sinking your head between your biceps and opening between your shoulder blades.
Back Pain Treatment
A yoga wheel is one of the most economical and straightforward ways to relieve back pain. It’s like having access to a free self-administered spine massage at any time.
A mild massage relieves tension and aids spinal decompression by simply rolling the wheel down your spine.
Simply lie down and position the wheel at the base of your spine under your back. Prop yourself up on the yoga wheel and roll back and forth with your legs, allowing the wheel to travel down to your tailbone and up to the base of your neck.
Support for Backbends
Backbends are undeniably scary for newbie yogis! Yoga backbends become considerably more accessible with these wheel-shaped props, which provide support and prevent you from extending too far.
The yoga wheel functions as a protective scaffold, preventing injuries while still allowing you to experience the heart-opening relaxation of a full backbend.
5. Knee Pads
In yoga, knee pain can be a significant source of discomfort. Especially when doing poses like a low lunge. Some people tend to feel more discomfort here than others. This is when a prop can really come in handy.
Deep stretches through your inner thighs in low lunge are still possible by placing a knee pad underneath.
There really is a prop for every yoga pose you can imagine. So don’t be afraid to try new poses, instead, progress into them with different props as your gentle guide.