Yoga Prop Alternatives Guide
Get Creative To Support Your Home Yoga Practice
Developing a home yoga practice can be a great way to incorporate mindfulness and movement into your busy routine. However, the process can be daunting when you realize you don’t yet have all of the equipment that your local studio has to make your practice as accessible or comfortable as you would like. Yoga instructor Kelsi Salisbury (@greenspacemvmt) has teamed up with Love My Mat to demonstrate how you can get creative at home to support your yoga practice.
Yoga Prop Alternative Guide:
Strap → Rolled Up Towel
Just like it sounds! Roll your towel lengthwise - I attach elastics on each end to prevent it from unrolling. The longer the towel, the more flexibility you will have to use it for different poses.
Sandbag → Weighted Grocery Bag
Don’t have a Sandbag? Check out this quick fix from your pantry:
- Reusable Grocery Bag (preferably one that is not a slippery vinyl material)
- Weighted pantry item: (5kg bag of flour, 10lb bag of rice, a bag of onions, a LOT of wine gums)
Place your weighted pantry item whole in your reusable grocery bag, and tie it up (just to ensure there are no unnecessary spills!)
Bolster → Stacked Blankets or Pillows
Fold your blankets so they are about 8-12 inches wide and 24-28 inches long.
TIP: Denser blankets will feel more supportive.
Equipment: Yoga Strap / Rolled Up Towel
In this modern world, especially as we age, most of us don’t actually spend a lot of time using the full functional range of the shoulder joint. As you begin to shed your Winter shivers, ease your shoulders into Spring with this mobility exercise.
TRY IT: With arms out in front of you, take the strap/towel between your hands, a generous distance apart (you can always adjust, if need be). Inhale, draw your arms up overhead. Exhale, draw your arms down in front of you. Repeat that range of motion for a few breaths. Move slowly, can you feel what muscles have to work to draw your arms overhead? How about when you draw your arms out in front?
Shoulders feeling warm today? The next time you inhale, try drawing your arms overhead, and on an exhale rotate through your shoulder to draw your arms behind you. Move slowly.
NOTICE: What is happening at your chest as you draw your arms overhead and/or behind you? Is your chest flaring forwards causing your back to arch? If so, think about drawing your low ribs closer to your public bone (i.e. feel your core turn on) to stabilize through the spine. This way the movement can be isolated to the shoulder joint, even if that means your shoulders don’t move as far.
TIP: Take your hands wider than you think you need to, this helps prevent the ribs from flaring and excess shoulder strain.
Equipment: Long and Lean Bolster + Yoga Sandbag // Pillows + Weighted Grocery Bag
Restorative twists have the potential to be restful and calming for the nervous system, however a lot of the time they can be anything but relaxing without the added support of yoga props. In twists, a yoga bolster or pillow can help bridge the space between your knees, preventing over-strain on your back, or the awkward hovering of your knees 15cm off the ground. Adding support where you need it eliminates excess effort from this pose so your body can fully reap the many benefits of melting into a twist.
Sandbags are magical in twists to provide a gentle amount of weight to help your body feel grounded. There are many ways you could use a sandbag, but here the sandbag is placed over the top knee to gently encourage the softening of the body towards the earth.
TRY IT: Lay on your back and bend your knees, lift your feet to hover at about 90 degrees. Arms can stretch out to the sides as you drop your knees towards the right. Place a bolster or pillow(s) between your knees. Add the sandbag or weighted grocery bag to your top knee and surrender to gravity!
TIP: If the support between your knees doesn’t quite feel restful, add a pillow under your bottom knee and see if that helps.
RECLINED HAMSTRING STRETCH
Equipment: Yoga Sandbag + Yoga Strap // Weighted Grocery Bag + Rolled Towel
Do you have tight hamstrings? You are not alone! Most of us spend the majority of our days seated, with knees bent, and therefore shortened hamstrings. This position helps counter short, tight hamstrings by stretching and lengthening the back of your legs
TRY IT: Lay on your back with feet planted and knees bent. Loop the middle of your strap or towel around the ball mound of your foot. Hold each end of the strap/towel as you work to gently press your heel closer to the ceiling. Allow your arms to reach a comfortable distance up the strap so that your upper body can stay grounded eliminating any unnecessary effort. A sandbag or weighted grocery bag are effective to gently ground your opposite leg.
TIP: Don’t worry about how straight your lifted leg is, just that you are feeling a stretch into the back of your thigh. Over time with practice and patience, you may find more length!
SUPPORTED SHOULDER STRETCH
Equipment: Long and Lean Bolster // Blanket Stack
Your shoulders are one of two sets of ball-and-socket joints in your body. While these joints have the greatest potential range of motion, they are also subject to much injury and wear and tear over a lifetime of use. Take your time to show your shoulders you care with this rear shoulder stretch. Here a bolster or blanket stack is used to lessen the intensity so you can hold this yin style yoga pose longer.
TRY IT: Lay your bolster or blanket stack horizontally in front of you, as you slowly find your way on to your belly, with your prop under your low ribs. Cross your right arm over your left with palms facing upwards. Reach your arms away from your body to feel a stretch into the back of the shoulder and into the upper back. As the body opens, you may consider inching the hands further away from the centre. Repeat the stretch crossing your arms the opposite way.
TIP: Try to take full breaths to practice expanding your breath into the back of your body
Starting a home practice can be intimidating, but with the right supportive tools you will wonder why you didn’t try it sooner! Do you have other ideas of how to use household items to improve your at home yoga experience? Let us know how you are getting creative at home with your #PropAlternatives!
Shelley and her team at Love My Mat create yoga and meditation props that fit the pose to your unique body. If you ever have questions on how to make a pose more accommodating at home they are always here to chat!
Kelsi is a yoga instructor, outdoor enthusiast, and chronic car singer. After a youth of playing sports, Kelsi followed her interest in health and wellness to Western University where she completed her degree in Kinesiology. Kelsi took her first yoga class in 2009, primarily turning to yoga as a supplementary form of movement and stretching to complement a distance running and resistance training regimen. In time, Kelsi found herself turning to yoga for more than a stretch, using time on her mat for awareness, clarity and self-acceptance. Learning how to apply these lessons outside of the yoga studio has been the most rewarding part of her practice.
Kelsi felt the desire to share the benefits of a mindful movement practice with others. In 2019, after years of thinking about it, she took the step to complete her 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training at In Fine Feather Yoga. Kelsi encourages exploratory movement with mindfulness at the forefront, sharing in the humanness of becoming better listeners to our own bodies and minds as we move about our lives. If not at the yoga studio you might find Kelsi running on a trail, paddleboarding at a conservation area, getting lost in endless crafting, or tending to her vegetable garden.