I practised yoga for years, happy with just me, my mat, and the occasional interruptions from my dog Meg. During this time I mainly practised Sivananda and Ashtanga yoga where additional props aren’t really used.
However, when I started to teach, I bought some yoga equipment to help support people while they were in certain asanas, if they needed it. At the same time I also became interested in restorative and yin yoga, which aren’t the same practice, but props can be used to support and enhance both of these styles of yoga. I’ve links to three books at the end of this article which will help you to make the most out of the equipment you use.
1. Yoga sandbags
If you’ve never used a yoga sandbag, they can feel like bliss when you’re holding a pose.I Yoga sandbags are often used in restorative yoga where some poses might be held for up to 10 minutes. They’re designed to help you relax more deeply and lose resistance as you hold asanas.
What are yoga sandbags?
They’re small canvas bags you can place on different parts of your body when you’re practising yoga. You can buy them either filled or unfilled. I bought mine unfilled, which I then filled with rice to create the weight. Typically, they weigh between 7 and 10 pounds.
Examples of how and where to use yoga sandbags
I usually use my sandbags on the soles of my feet in legs against the wall pose, which helps to bring about a real feeling of lightness in my body when I come out of the pose.
- The soles of your feet in Legs against the wall pose
- Your hip creases in Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle pose)
- Your lower back in Balasana (Child’s pose)
- Your belly in Savasana
Which sandbags to use?
I bought two unfilled sandbags exactly like the one below, which I then filled with dry rice to add the weight. However, you can also buy them filled.
Click on the image below or view yoga sandbags on Amazon here.
Use a bolster at the start or end of a more active practice. For example, starting or finishing with reclined baddha konasana (bound angle pose) using a bolster for your back. You can use it throughout a yin or restorative practice. For example, hugging the arms around it in balasana (child’s pose) or placing it between the legs and leaning onto it whilst in upavistha konasana (wide legged forward bend).
You can also place it under your lower back in legs against the wall pose, or under your knees in savasana.
Which bolster to use?
This is about personal preference. The one I use is filled with buckwheat and was relatively good value for money. However, I’ve also used cotton bolsters similar to the one below, which are a lot more lightweight if that’s something that is important.
Click on the image below or view yoga bolsters on Amazon here
3. Bricks and blocks
Although there are a lot of uses for bricks and blocks, typically blocks can help to lift your pelvis in poses such as paschimottanasana (seated forward fold). This is especially important if you feel like you’re collapsing your torso when you’re not supported.
Another use for a block that I’ve found most people can benefit from, unless you’re super flexible, is using a block under the buttocks when in pigeon pose.
There are also many creative constructions you can create with blocks, bolsters and blankets for the ultimate restorative practice. Read the restorative yoga book featured at the end of this article for ideas.
Which bricks and bolsters to use?
The cork ones are the best, in that they’re more hard wearing, but if it’s just you using them, foam bricks and blocks such as these will be more than sufficient.
Click on the image below or view yoga bricks and blocks on Amazon here
4. Lavender eye pillow
Use when you’re in savasana or yoga nidra, especially if you’re practising during the day when it’s still light. There’s an article on Yoga Journal for making your own eye pillows here: Make your own eye pillows
5. Knee jellies
I don’t personally use these, but I did just buy some silicone yoga jellies for when I’m teaching. They can be amazing if you’re knees ever hurt, or if you have knee issues in general. Use them whenever you’re holding a pose where the knees are touching the mat, such as pigeon pose or a low lunge.
Which yoga jellies should I use?
There are cheaper versions, but these are the ones I bought, which seem to give the most support if you do have knee issues.
Click on the image below or view yoga jellies on Amazon here
This might seem like an obvious suggestion, but you can use them for a lot more than resting in savasana. If you practice the Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) a lot, you could try using a few folded blankets under your shoulders and allowing your head to rest on the mat. This is the Iyengar way of practising. Alternatively, you might prefer to use folded blankets for support in pigeon pose rather than a block.
3 books that will help you get the most out of your yoga equipment
Although yoga props can be used to adapt pretty much any style of yoga practice, they’re often used more in Iyengar, restorative and yin practices. These are my top three books, to help you make the most out of your yoga equipment.
This was a birthday present and my first ever yoga book. If you want to know how to perform each asana with correct alignment, this is the book for you.
I’m in the middle of reading this book, and I’m absolutely loving it. Yin asanas are still active, so the props are used in a different way to restorative yoga, but they can be beneficial for supporting you properly within a pose.
This is the book to get if you’re unsure how to use the yoga equipment above. Even if you don’t have a solely restorative practice, there’s no reason why you can’t incorporate one or two restorative poses with props into your usual sequence. Props used in restorative yoga help you to feel fully supported so you can really relax and let go in the pose.
If you have a very active yoga practice, perhaps try slowing down every now and again and trying out Yin Yoga or ending your regular practice in a restorative asana such as legs against the wall pose, reclined baddha konasana or reclined hero’s pose. When your life is very fast paced and/or you live in a busy city, sometimes this is exactly what you need. If you struggle to stay in Savasana longer than a few minutes, you could try a restorative asana instead and see how you feel.
Finally, I am an Amazon affiliate, which means if you click on the links in this article and buy the equipment, I will make a small commission.