By now, most of us have gotten the message that using props is not a sign of weakness. After all, props can add a whole new dimension to your yoga practice, helping you do everything from improve your alignment to making formerly awkward or uncomfortable poses easier, and more. In fact, not using a prop can often compromise the integrity of a pose.
Yoga props can also have a restorative effect, helping you sink deeper into a stretch or massage away tension held in your connective tissue. In a nutshell: “Yoga pops are underrated,” says Seattle, Washington-based Tiffany Cruikshank, L.AC, MAOM, E-RYT, AND founder of Yoga Medicine. Read on to find out what some of the top yoga teachers around the country reach for when they practice.
7 Best Yoga Props, According to 7 Top Teachers
1. Rad Rollers Recovery Rounds
There’s tons of new research coming out on the importance of connective tissue (aka fascia) health and the “new organ,” the interstitium, which is the entire system interfacing between the vascular system and the lymphatic system, says Cruikshank. To wit: Fascia has become the new yoga buzzword, and as a result, many companies are developing props designed to improve soft tissue resilience. “I love these soft, myofascial balls for use prior to or during my yoga practice to target tissue health and hydration,” she says.
One way to use: Sit in Virasana and place the ball behind your knee to relieve tension in your hamstrings and calves.
Learn more about Rad Rollers Recovery Rounds here.
2. Coregeous® Ball
LA–based Jill Miller, C-IAYT, E-RYT, creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model®, loves using this spongy ball that gives her feedback about where she holds stress. “This ball can alter my nervous system faster than pranayama alone,” she says. “Its grippy surface conforms to my chest, abdomen, ribs, low back, neck, and more, and provides profound myofascial massage. Plus, it easily deflates and inflates, making it portable for low back support for planes and cars.”
One way to use: Lie face-down on your yoga mat and place the ball under your belly. Pay attention to areas that are tight and see if you can breathe relief into those areas, using the ball as support and as a feedback loop for information about where you might be tight.
Learn more about Coregeous® Ball here.
3. Lululemon No Limits Stretching Strap
Straps built specifically for yoga came on the scene when Iyengar created one in the early 1970s. And although they were sturdy, the buckles were a struggle to loosen. Straps have come a long way since then—now available in a variety of thicknesses, colors, and loops. “There are lots of good straps on the market and all pretty similar, but I especially love the cotton webbing of the Lululemon strap, and I love the easy-to-adjust buckle,” says Beryl Bender Birch, E-RYT, who coined the term “power yoga” and is founder and director of The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute.
One way to use: Straps are ubiquitous in yoga; one common way to use them is to assist in poses that require you to bind. No need to stop at asana, though. “One of my favorite uses for this strap involves my Siberian husky, Bernie,” says Birch. “I’ll grab this strap when she and I are heading out for a hike and I can’t find her leash.”
Learn more about Lululemon No Limits Stretching Strap here.
4. Yoga Wall
The Yoga Wall—found at most Iyengar studios—is a versatile, infinitely adjustable support system. Its superpower: It can hold, lift, or suspend a part of your body while you do active or restorative postures. “I use the Yoga Wall for spinal traction, to keep my spine young in all the possible movements of the spine,” says Bellevue, Washington-based Aadil Palkhivala, founder of Purna Yoga.
One way to use: “I like to use the Yoga Wall in extension (backbend), to help me open up the space between the vertebrae and create suction,” says Palkhivala. “This reverses osmotic pressure and allows the discs to become better hydrated.”
Learn more about the Yoga Wall here.
5. Halfmoon yoga strap
It’s common knowledge that yoga teachers get persnickety (read: OCD) about their straps. Some teachers want one that’s easy to undo, others want a strap that holds tight. For Boston-based Natasha Rizopoulos, founder of Align Your Flow, the Halfmoon is her top choice. “It’s in the style of the straps used at the Iyengar Institute in Pune, and unlike many straps, has a buckle that won’t budge once you’ve created a loop at the desired measurement.”
One way to use: “I use the strap just above my elbows to keep them shoulder-distance apart for my daily timed Forearm Plank practice (multiple iterations combined with timed Salabhasanas) as well as for poses like Sirsasana and Salamba Sarvangasana,” says Rizopolous.
Learn more about Halfmoon yoga strap here.
6. Hugger Mugger Cork Yoga Block
One of the earliest iterations of the yoga block was a large telephone book covered with foam and cloth. Now, blocks come in all shapes and sizes. Durham, North Carolina-based Sage Rountree, E-RYT 500, who specializes in teaching yoga for athletes, says the block is her most indispensable prop. “This is the one I reach for most often and would take with me to a desert island—even over a mat,” she says. “You can sit on a block, use it to make your arms longer when the floor feels too far away, rest your forearms on two of them in Table Pose if your wrists are complaining—the list of uses goes on and on,” she says. The Hugger Mugger cork block is her top choice because it is solid and reliable, unlike more flimsy foam blocks.
One way to use: Stand on a block on its lowest height for your standing balance poses. You’ll find that even “simple” balance poses like Tree Pose are far more exciting at three or four inches of elevation.
Learn more about Hugger Mugger Cork Yoga Block here.
7. Hugger Mugger Sandbags
The next best thing to having a teacher press on you while in a stretch is a set of sandbags: Under their weight, your muscles can find a new way to surrender and relax. “I love to use sandbags when I’m doing a restorative practice, or even at the end of my asana practice as a way to calm the nervous system and open my breath,” says Boulder-based Alison Litchfield, a former Rolfer and founder of Embodied Flow Yoga. “And Hugger Mugger’s sandbags are extremely durable,” she says.
One way to use: Try using sandbags when you practice Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose), placing the sandbags on your feet, says Litchfield. “It grounds my hips and pelvis, and brings me into a state of deep relaxation.”
Learn more about Hugger Mugger Sandbags here.