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A Beginner’s Guide For Yoga Props. Part 2.

An experienced yoga instructor demonstrates how to use straps, blankets, bolsters and sandbags in your asanas to make them feel better and more comfortable.

If you read yoga props part 1, you already know what I think are the two most important props to consider for your practice: a yoga mat and a block.  The following props are also useful to make your practice more comfortable, and you’ll find these in many studios.

STRAPS

I like to jokingly tell my students, “Straps make your arms longer.” A strap can bring something within reach of your hands, usually your feet.  Many postures have a grip of hand to foot as part of the posture, but many of us lack the flexibility required to get the hand to the foot, or to do it without straining the back.  When I first started practicing, I could barely reach past my knees when trying to bend forward and touch my toes!  This is not an exaggeration!  So using a strap allowed me to get a grip on my feet and use a pull on the strap to lengthen my spine and fold forward with a healthier alignment.

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A strap allows you to get a grip on your foot in big toe balance if you are not able to grab your big toe.

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seated forward foldwithout a strap can cause you to round the spine in a effort to reach the feet.

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Using a strap for seated forward fold allows you to reach your feet with your spine long and in a healthy alignment.

Seated forward fold without a strap can cause you to round the spine in a effort to reach the feet. Using a strap for seated forward fold allows you to reach your feet with your spine long and in a healthy alignment.

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Rotated head to knee pose without a strap can cause you to collapse forward in an effort to reach the foot.

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Rotated head to knee pose with a strap allows you to roll the heart open toward the ceiling while still grabbing the foot.

For this particular use of the strap, you could substitute several household items, like a belt, an old tie, an old extension cord, or a scarf that isn’t too stretchy.
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Big toe balance with an extension cord.  :)

The other use of the strap is to hold some part or parts of your body in a particular position.  For this use of the strap, you will need to use a yoga strap and not a substitute prop.  :)  Yoga straps come with an adjustable loop to hold parts of your body.  If you are considering buying a yoga strap, I’d suggest getting one with a pinch buckle clip rather than a D ring.  The clip allows you to get in and out of the loop more easily.  Also, the most versatile straps are the longer ones; 8 foot straps are plenty long for many different sizes of bodies and many different arrangements of the straps.

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Supta baddha konasana with a strap holding the legs in place. The strap lengthens the low back and gently presses down on the thighs to open the groins a bit more.

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Supported fish with a strap holding the arms and serving as a hammock for the head.

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A strap harness to open up the shoulders and chest.

BLANKETS
Blankets provide support for the body in various positions.  The most common use for a blanket (or two or three…) is to elevate the hips in seated postures.  This allows the spine to be in its neutral curves and the knees to settle in line with the hips or slightly below.
Sitting on the floor can cause roundness in the spine and knees to be above the hips if your hips are not used to sitting this way. Sitting on a blanket elevates the hips, allowing the knees to settle in line with or below the hips, and the spine to be upright.

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Sitting on the floor can cause roundness in the spine and knees to be above the hips if your hips are not used to sitting this way

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Shoulder stand with 3 blankets supporting the upper spine so the neck stays safe

Blankets are also used as supports or padding for various parts of the body.  They provide a soft and comfortable way to keep your body in a certain position.  The blankets can be folded or rolled up in various ways to support many seated and reclining postures.

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Blanket padding the knees in table pose.

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Supported fish with a blanket under the upper spine.

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You can also use them to keep warm, of course.  :)
Stay warm in savasana. And you can use them to pillow your head.

If you do not have your own yoga blanket, you can substitute a beach towel or bed blanket, just make sure the blanket you choose is thick and supportive and doesn’t “squish down” too much when you put weight on it, especially if you are using it for shoulder stand as in the picture above.  I use these Mexican blankets at my studio.

BOLSTER

A bolster’s basic purpose is also to support the body in a certain position, but it is larger and thicker than a blanket, so it can provide more support.  I call bolsters the Lazy Boy of the yoga props, as they make a very nice “recliner” for your body.  This one is really nice.

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Savasana with a bolster under the thighs helps make it more comfortable for your low back.

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A restorative yoga spine twist, supported by the bolster.

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Supta baddha konasana, supported by the bolster.

SANDBAG

Sandbags are a nice little bonus prop, as they are not “required” for any posture, but their extra weight – around 10 pounds – can make certain postures feel more grounded, or can give you an extra bit of stretch.  You can get them online, then fill them with “play sand” from the hardware store.
A sandbag helps keep the knee grounded on the floor and increases the thigh and hip flexor release in half supra virasana.
A sandbag on the hips during savasana feels nice and grounding.

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Add a sandbag to the top arm of gommukasana to get an extra release of the shoulder.

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A sandbag on the feet in legs up the wall helps to release the low back, and feels really nice on the feet.

 

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A sandbag helps keep the knee grounded on the floor and increases the thigh and hip flexor release in half supra virasana.

And the grand finale:

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Supta baddha konasana with all the “toys.”  Two blocks under a bolster, strap around the legs, sandbag

Originally published at: http://yogahuman.blogspot.com/2015/02/beginners-guide-to-yoga-props-part-2.html




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