Are you a active practitioner of yoga? Some people enjoy yoga because it seems simple and can be done anywhere without the purchase of expensive equipment. While that is true, there are some props and accessories that you can use to make you more comfortable or safer, allow you to relax more deeply, or allow you to move in a way that you cannot naturally due to flexibility challenges, thereby making your practice more effective. Some accessories are virtually mandatory while others are purely matters of the taste or desire of the yoga practitioner.
Clothing should be comfortable and allow you to move freely. You don’t want your clothes to be too tight and inhibit movement and stretch, but neither do you want it too loose so that it rides up at inopportune moments. Plus, closer fitting clothing will allow your instructor, if you are taking a class or personal training session, to more closely observe your poses and offer suggestions for improvement or modification. If you have longer hair, you likely will want to tie it back or use a “scrunchy” so that it doesn’t fly all around or drop into your face and block your vision. You don’t want to stop the perfect pose by having to shake your head around to clear your hair out of the way.
You can practice yoga on almost any surface like grass, the beach, or carpet. However, if these are uncomfortable to you or if you are practicing on a bare or wood floor or frictionless surface, you will want to use a yoga mat with carry strap. People also called the mats “sticky” because they provide a certain friction to avoid sliding around.
The mat will allow proper placement of hands and feet without slippage out of the poses. In addition, mats can provide protection and cushioning for your knees, hips, and lower back. Yoga mats are made in various sizes, normal or wide width, normal or long length, and even various shapes, rectangle being the most usual but also including round. Different thicknesses are also available, adding more or less cushion but also adding more weight as the mat gets thicker–which can be bothersome if you have to carry your mat to and from class.
If you are new to yoga, are taking a vigorous power or ashtanga class, or just sweat a lot, your yoga mat may get slippery from dripping perspiration. The solution may be to use specially made yoga socks and yoga “gloves.” These cover your feet and hands and may cover fingers and toes or may be open to allow fingers and toes to protrude out through holes. They have special non-stick pads so that your hands and feet don’t slip.
Although they are becoming more popular, I find them too hot, especially in very vigorous classes. Another solution to slippage is a skidless microfiber yoga towel. They come in various sizes from a small towel about the size of a face towel to a large towel that covers almost an entire standard yoga mat. The side of the towel that contacts the mat has little plastic or rubber grippers that hold the towel, and therefore hopefully you, in place. Towels have a couple of drawbacks, at least initially.
First, you should wash them a few times until they can still let your hands and feet slip. To avoid this, you may want to spray or sprinkle water onto your towel which will cause your hands and feet to stick due to friction. In a hot class, the perspiration will eventually perform this task! In addition, until you are used to the towel being there, you may “trip” over it a little when moving from pose to pose. Once you get used to the towel, however, it is almost impossible to think of taking anything but a slow, restorative or serenity class without the towel to keep you from slipping and absorb perspiration. A final note on yoga towels, when you wash them don’t use fabric softener; it can make them slick when next you use them.
One of the most common accessories or props of yoga is the block. Blocks can be made of foam, cork, wood, or other substance. Most are approximately 9″x5″x3″. You can use EVA yoga block as an extension of your body to gain more benefit from poses. For example, in a wide legged forward bend, your instructor might suggest that you rest your head on the floor. For me, that result is a long ways away. But I can rest my head on top of a block and get the same relaxation response and relief of pressure in my neck.
In doing downward facing dog, you may not at first be able to get your heals down and stretch your seat bones to the sky to get length in the spine while your hands are flat on the floor. Put your hands on top of a block and you may achieve all of this. It might not be possible to do a revolved triangle with your hand on the floor, but put your hand on a block instead and you may get there. Using a block as an aid can allow you to get better alignment, stretch tight areas, and avoid unnecessary strain.
Other props that can increase the effectiveness of your practice include blankets, straps, bolsters, sandbags, eye pillows, meditation cushions and massage yoga roller. In our capitalist society, manufacturers are constantly coming up with new accessories to try to sell you, like backbending benches, calf stretchers, yoga ropes, and more. Some of these accessories, like one backbending bench I’ve seen, can cost up to $750. But adding a few useful, fairly inexpensive accessories like well-fitting clothing, a good yoga mat, a non-skid towel, and a block or two can enhance your practice without a lot of expense. While using some props if you don’t really need them can dull your practice, using accessories and props appropriately can make your practice more comfortable and effective.
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