Beginner Yoga Series – How to Use Non-Traditional Yoga Props at Home
As someone who practices a ton of yoga on the go or at home, I have found a deep appreciation for using random things for yoga props. For example, I have used a coffee table to hold my balance in a low lunge pose. I have squeeze a water bottle between my thighs to keep my legs activated in chair pose. More commonly, I make my bed into a cozy yoga oasis, complete with piles of pillows in blankets to sink my restorative practice into. Today, I am going to be sharing some non-traditional yoga props you can use at home, including blankets, pillows, walls, and chairs.
For the last few weeks, we have been working through great beginner tips for starting a home yoga practice. We shared ways to start a routine that is easy to keep up with, no matter how much time you have available each day. Diving into the different types of yoga, we discussed what practices may be best suited for you and that it can vary all the time. In the last two weeks, we covered more traditional yoga props – the yoga blocks and straps.
In working with students in private lessons, it has been a joy to show students how to use the tools they already have at home to make their practice easier or more comfortable. If you have suffered from any injuries or are older, these tools may help to reduce pain and give more support. Walls and chairs can help students of all levels find great stretches and strength building without needing to crawl onto the floor.
I’ll walk you through different ways to use each of these non-traditional props, as well as link you to articles that give you greater details on how to use each one. Check out the video at the bottom of the post to get a better visual on how to use these props.
Ready? Let’s do it!
In most yoga studios, you will find sturdy blankets or Mexican-style blankets. These are used to assist students by offered extra support and cushion in poses. The specific style of blanket used in studios is typically used because they are sturdier and less fluffy that throw blankets, offering better support. However, a strong blanket or even a towel at home can work just as well.
If you find that your joints hurt on the ground, a blanket can offer the perfect cushion underneath your body. When it is uncomfortable to sit in easy pose, with your legs crossed in front of you, the support of the folded blanket under your bum can release pressure in the hips and pain from sitting on a hard surface. Additionally, blankets can be placed under the knees in any kneeling pose.
I also tend to enjoy the cushion of a blanket under my belly and groin in poses such as locust or bow pose. It reduces the pain of my hip bones rubbing on the hard surface.
Another cool trick for using a blanket is to provide additional space between the knees when they become painful in postures such as child’s pose. By rolling the blanket and placing it behind the knees, it can offer additional space and less tightness on the knees.
Pillows are probably my favorite yoga props, especially when feeling sick or cramps. It is the perfect prop to be used for restorative or yin poses practiced in bed or a lazy night in front of a good movie. Similar to the blanket or blocks, pillows simply offer some extra support under the body, but feel much more cozy.
As discussed in our blog post on types of yoga, Restorative Yoga is a resting practice that is traditional done with a lot of props. We set ourselves up into postures we can really relax into with the extra support. While it is traditional practiced with blocks, bolsters, pillows, etc., we can use pillows from your bed and couch to create a similar effect at home. For a complete practice, check out our Restorative Yoga with Pillows class.
One example for using pillows is to create a place to rest into when enjoying a forward fold. Whether the legs are together in front, spread wide, or a side leg stretch, placing the pillows underneath the chest and head can provide wonderful support to the body.
The pillows can also be used to provide support in postures that allow you to sink into a deep stretch, such as Cobbler Pose. Placing the pillows beneath the knees or thighs lets you hold the position for much longer without the fear of sinking in too deep and getting hurt.
Get creative with your pillow practice! I love placing some pillows underneath poses that usually wouldn't use support, such as Bridge Pose or Shoulder Stand. This lets you experience the postures in a totally new way.
The wall can offer some sturdy support to explore a variety of poses. We can take pressure off our wrist or remove the exhaustive weight of our body on the floor by trying poses such as downward facing dog on the wall (see video). Additionally, the wall can be used as a prop to offer deeper stretches in addition to the extra support.
For example, we can use the wall to get some deep shoulder stretches. Downward facing dog or Dolphin pose on the wall can allow the shoulders to open and the head to relax. One of my favorite moves along the wall is my "arm clock." Standing with your right hip against the wall, take your right arm out in front of you, placed against the wall. As you begin to walk the fingers up the wall, the movement will feel restrictive. Simply take small steps away from the wall until you can bring your hand all the way behind you against the wall. Repeat a couple times on both sides.
We can use the wall to help us open into our hips, something I used to do in dance class as a kid. There are a variety of different poses we can do with our back on the floor and our legs on the floor. Taking the legs out wide can really open the hips.
Additionally, you can simply allow the legs to rest straight up on the wall. It is one of the greatest things you can do to release lower back pain. If it feels especially sensitive, you can always place a pillow or blanket underneath the lower back for extra support.
If wall yoga really interests you, we have a complete blog post and video class you can practice at home!
Don't put your nose in the air on this one! Chair yoga may seem like an easier alternative to traditional yoga, but you can still get an incredible work out and stretch from a seat. Chair yoga was useful when I used to work with elderly students or yogis suffering from injuries. They were always impressed with how much we could work up a sweat using the support of the chair.
For basic stretching, the chair offers a ton of support. This allows you to find twists, hamstring stretches, hip openers, and much more. If you are looking for some yoga moves you can do at work, we have an entire blog post, video, and PDF with moves you can practice at your desk.
Just like the wall practice, we can use the chair to do floor poses, such as Downward Facing Dog, without the stress of the body weight on the wrists. Using the back of the chair, the chest and head can drop into the posture (watch the video for details).
The chair offers a great support for standing postures as well. Even when practicing postures, such as Triangle or Warrior Poses, the chair can take extra weight from the body. This gives you more balance and confidence in the posture.
Plus, holding onto a chair or wall can give you the confidence to hold balancing postures, like Tree Pose.
How to Use Non-Traditional Yoga Props
For more ideas and detailed visuals, check out this video on how to use non-traditional yoga props at home.
If you are worried about budget or don't have the space for fancy yoga equipment at home, don't worry! You still have a ton of options. As always, I encourage you to get creative and try out your own props at home.
Have a giant bean bag? Awesome! That would make a cozy spot for restorative poses.
Wanna float around in the pool with some noodles and floaties? Do your thing! But, invite me over?
Questions about how to use blankets, pillows, walls, chairs, or any other yoga prop? Drop your questions in the comments below and I would love to help in any way I can.
Stay tuned! Next week, we are finishing off our Beginner Yoga Series by diving into the lifestyle of yoga, also known as the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Subscribe and let me know if you need anything,