Accessories like yoga blankets, blocks or even your room’s wall are a great help when you want to assist your poses, giving them more stability and allowing the performance of complex moves more easily. They’re also very useful tools with as many uses as your imagination can come up with.
Its always fun and motivating to discover new ways to use blankets, blocks, straps and walls in yoga websites or YouTube videos, incorporating them into daily practice.
The time used to learn and come up with new ways to use props is well invested as they’ll help our practice, progression and health making the experience more fun and lively aiding us to keep the discipline and avoid falling into a boring routine. Also take into consideration that the quality of your yoga mat can completely transform your practice from lousy to awesome.
Block Supported Wheel
The Wheel Pose or Chakrasana can be hard to perform for beginners, people with lower back or shoulder problems as it needs flexibility. For these cases supporting your hands on blocks make the pose much easier and progressive as you can gradually bend the elbow to gradually increase flexibility. Just make sure to place the blocks against a wall or ensure they won’t slip.
- Place the block firmly against the wall, lie down and place your head between them.
- Bend your knees and have your feet flat on the ground, put your hands on the blocks upside down so you are grabbing the blocks from the opposite side of the wall.
- Push with your hands and feet down and try to lift your buttocks while you rest the top of your head on the mat.
- Now squeeze your elbows and shoulder blades towards one another, push and straighten your hands and feet down a bit more while you lift the crown of your head up and complete the pose.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend on a Yoga Blanket
The Prasarita padottanasana I is a great exercise to improve pelvic floor health and its associated organs and activate the lower chakras bringing more energy to your day and strength to your inner thighs and core. This exercise is also preparatory for the complicated press handstand pose because a great deal of mastering it resides in your hip placement.
- Fold a yoga blanket in half lengthwise and place it on the floor facing one of the long edges of your mat.
- Stand in Mountain pose on the yoga blanket with your feet parallel and apart about 4 feet.
- Inhale and extend your torso, pressing down the floor with your thighs.
- Exhale and maintaining the length of the torso lean it forward from the hip. As it becomes parallel to the floor place your hands on the floor (or two yoga blocks) just below your shoulders and press your fingertips down
- Inhale, make your back flat and slightly longer than your chest, curling your sternum forward, straightening both your spine and your arms.
- Exhale, press down through your palms, arch your back up and slide your legs and feet together with the help of the mat.
- Inhale, slide your feet apart and flat your spine lengthening it again.
- Repeat the cycle 10 times, sliding your legs together while exhaling and sliding them back apart while inhaling.
Overhead Shoulder Salutations Holding a Strap
A strap can be a great tool for opening your shoulders and this technique is one of the simplest ones to achieve it. It’s ideal for stretching and opening up after a long day sitting at the office.
- Stand up holding the strap tight with your hands apart wider than your shoulders at waist level.
- Inhale and lift the strap up overhead in an arch; exhale and bring the strap behind you (if you can’t just widen your grip).
- Inhale and take the strap back just above your head; exhale and take it to waist level again in the same arch. Repeat 5 times.
Sun Salutations Gripping Blocks
The ancient practice of Surianamaskara (Suria: the Sun god, namah: postration and kara: perform) is an easy and peaceful asana, recommended for every age and level. It can be even easier and more effective by gripping blocks with both hands.
This lowers your center of mass so your arms and shoulder feel an extra extension allowing you to step back from Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose) and forward from Parvatasana (Mountain pose) more easily. It also allows the transition from Dandasana (Stick pose) to Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) without touching the floor, facilitating and enhancing the exercise. One of the ways blocks enhance the exercise is that it forces to press through the palms and stretch the shoulders which is one of its objectives.
The extra stretch on your shoulder will help to strengthen the muscles surrounding them, helping people who spend too many hours sitting. The rocking movement of the bowels and abdomen has many health benefits like improving blood circulation, skin and hair health, weight loss, regularization of the menstrual cycle, anti-anxiety and calming properties.
Assisted Warrior III with a Strap
Virabhadra is a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva. Assisting the Warrior III or Virabhadrasana I pose with a strap will make it much easier to perform. This is because you can use your lifted heel as an anchor for the rest of your body holding it with your hands and heel until it feels tight. This adds a ton of stability to the pose allowing you to focus on exercising the core muscles and the stretching of the back which are this pose objectives.
- This is relatively easy to perform, stand firm and hold the strap with both hands while putting one of your heels on its middle.
- Inhale, slowly begin to push your heel and chest apart from each other, straighten your arms and focus on the movement of your shoulder blades.
- Push your heel and pull with your hands apart from the heel, feeling how your body lengthens while slowly begin to lift your leg up and bend your torso forward, keeping them parallel and straight until your perform Warrior III.
Assisted Yoga Wheel Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose
This pose requires core strength to be able to keep it for some period of time. Beginners struggle with this pose as they can’t keep a right arch on their backs for long so it becomes a pose that needs assistance and correction by someone else.
A great way to train your body to have a feel of what is the correct arch that this pose needs is using a yoga wheel. It will also help you gain strength in your core muscles gradually making this pose much easier to perform.
- Start in supine position over your mat having your yoga wheel at the side of your stomach.
- Slowly put one of your hands on the ground and with the other slowly slide the yoga wheel under your back while you lift your stomach up.
- Then, when the wheel is in place put your elbows on the mat as required by this pose and straighten your legs until you achieve the inverted staff pose.
- Keep the position occasionally lifting your back over the wheel and keeping it a few inches without its support to train your core muscles.
Eventually you will be able to perform this pose without the yoga wheel’s assistance.
Crow over a Block
Performing a successful Crow Pose requires not only strength but balance. Your hips must allow your knees to get over your elbows before having a balanced posture. If you stand on a block while putting your hands on the ground your knees will be higher at the start of the exercise and it will be much easier to execute the posture and achieve balance.
- Place a block on the ground and stand on it while hunching your back and putting your hands on the ground just a foot from the block.
- Then wrap your elbows with your knees while squatting. In that posture then push your elbows and knees against each other, look slightly ahead and tilt your hips up until the center of balance moves towards the elbows and knees and your only support are your hands with your feet on the air.
- If you’re a beginner try lifting one foot at a time and you will see yourself able to gradually keep the balance for more and more time.
- On the contrary if you’re an expert you can increase the difficulty of the pose by grabbing the block with your feet and bringing it up towards your pubic floor while you keep your balance on your hands.
Assisted Scorpion Pose
You can use many props to assist you in the different Scorpion poses. The wall, blocks, a chair, anything that you can imagine. For example for the One Legged (Normal or Stretched Out) Scorpion Pose you can use the edge of a wall or a door. Rest the bent leg’s foot on the wall or frame of the door while you straighten the other leg.
- For the Scorpion Pose you can use piled blocks until you have the height of a chair’s seat or simply use a chair.
- For this put your mat lying on the floor next to a wall, pile the block or put the chair against the wall.
- Come down on all fours and put your elbows on the mat with your forearms on the ground and parallel to each other.
- Grab the legs of the chair with your hands or place them on the mat in case you’re using blocks.
- Then, giving yourself impulse, lift your legs up towards the wall until you rest your feet on the chair or over the blocks.
- The chair offers two levels for you to practice, the top and the seat, making the practice more gradual and easy.
This assisted pose will help with the inversion of your legs which is the hardest part of the different Scorpion poses.
Bolster Assisted Bow
The Bow Pose is not particularly difficult but practitioners either love it for the benefits it brings to digestion and the pleasant extension of the thighs and shoulder or hate it because of the pressure it exerts on the abdomen, making breathing more difficult during the exercise, the thighs and lower back.
If you perform the Bow or Dhanurasana with a bolster under your abdomen between your upper hips it will cradle you back moving your weight a bit towards your knees. It will allow an easier breathing while you plant your knees firmly on the ground and lift your chest up. It will also allow you to grab your ankles much easier. With a bolster the Bow will become a pleasant practice without the usual oppression of this pose on your abdomen and tension on your lower back.
Balance Poses on A Block for Experts
If you’re a veteran who experience boredom and lack of challenge from time to time with the easy poses of your yoga routine you can use a block to turn the difficulty up a notch keeping your balance over it. It will make you have to put much more concentration on your Asana, strengthening your ankles or wrists which may feel sore at the beginning. For this reason put extra care not to injury yourself in case your joints aren’t fortified enough. Train them gradually and both sides equally if you’re not as veteran as you though.
- For leg supported exercises put a block firmly on your mat and make sure it doesn’t slip.
- If the block is of high quality and dense it will make the pose safer for your joints to perform.
- Stand on both feet and then slide one of them slowly towards the center of the block while you raise the opposite knee up transitioning to your chosen pose from there.
- For hands put two blocks and your hands on the center of them, balance your weight until you support it with your hands and then transition to your chosen pose from there.
Assisted Standing Poses with Gliding Yoga Blankets
A basic ability that many beginners struggle with is returning to the middle longitudinal line of the mat, moving the legs towards each other in a standing pose that separates them. This is because the inner and back muscles of the thighs are usually poorly trained due to our modern sedentary life and these muscles are harder to train especially for office workers. A great way to train these muscles is using the Warrior II pose or Virabhadrasana II.
- Fold your mat on half transversally and put one foot over it. Put the other over a folded yoga blanket and do this over a floor where it can glide easily.
- To get into this pose, with the hands on your hips, slowly start bending your right knee while gliding your left foot away from the other.
- When you fully reach the Warrior II pose keep the pose for a couple of deep breaths, lengthening the time as you get your thighs more trained.
- Then return your left foot towards the other while returning your right knee to a standing position. Repeat as needed.
As you have seen, with a bit of imagination, the possibilities are endless. If you have questions or have practiced with your own creative uses for props and accessories share them with us and leave a comment!