Everyday Yoga: The Right Equipment

One of the many great things about yoga is that all it really requires is a body and the breath. Basically, if you are alive and mobile, you have everything you need to practice. (Congratulations! You qualify.) However, there are certain items—known as props in the yoga world—that can help you do your poses more comfortably.

The more props an activity has, the more intimidating it may seem. You certainly don't have to have an arsenal of the latest and greatest yoga gear to be a good yogi. They only serve to make your practice safe and fulfilling. If you find that you want to continue more deeply into the practice of yoga, you may want to consider buying one or two props to help solidify your commitment to the practice.

Yoga props cheat sheet

Yoga mat. These sticky rubber mats help ensure that you won't slide around in your poses, and they give you a portable practice space. Dolly Parton says, "Home is anywhere I hang my wig." I say, "Home is anywhere I spread out my yoga mat."

A blanket.
Most yoga studios keep a supply of cotton Mexican blankets on hand. They are infinitely adaptable: Depending on how you fold them, you can create just the right amount of height to use as a cushion in seated poses or shoulder stands. Unfolded, they make a nice covering for final relaxation so you don't lose all of the body heat you just worked so hard to build.

Blocks. Made out of wood or a hard foam rubber, yoga blocks have infinite uses. Any good yoga teacher can show you how to modify almost any pose using a block. I recommend having two, one for each hand.

A strap. Yogis make frequent use of a long (up to eight feet) canvas strap that has an adjustable buckle. Using a strap can help you reach a body part that would otherwise be out of reach. It can also keep your legs from splaying out in a backbend or your elbows from sliding in a forearm stand. The more you practice, the more you'll find creative ways to use it.

An eye pillow.
These little pillows are designed to rest on top of your eyes during restorative pose and final relaxation (also known as savasana or corpse pose). Often filled with lavender, they smell divine and can help you retreat into the quiet that is always just below the surface of your thoughts.

A bolster. Also handy for restorative poses, a yoga bolster is basically a big, firm pillow. Lying on the floor with a bolster under your shoulder blades is a great way to open your chest, give yourself a gentle backbend and encourage your figurative and literal heart to become suppler.

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