Choosing a Yoga Block
Blocks come in foam, cork and wood. Any of these are fine, but I prefer to start with the foam variety. They are sturdy, won’t slip when wet, and they are inexpensive. Gaiam makes a basic yoga block of recycled, pre-consumer EVA scrap, so you can feel good about keeping your eco-footprint small as you practice. Lululemon makes a similar one, and costs about the same. The great thing about the Lulu block is that it has a line down the middle for alignment. And most brands of yoga blocks come in a rainbow of colors—so have fun with the options and choose something bold!
Using a Yoga Block
Using a block while you practice will help you do two things:
1. Modify your poses. Sometimes a full-out pose is just too much. Maybe it’s a twist, or maybe it’s simply touching your toes. Blocks bring the floor closer to you. They help you to get where you need to be and feel the extension without overexerting or stressing your body. They can help even the most advanced practitioner.
2. Help you stay balanced. The essence of yoga is balance—mind and body in harmony. A yoga block is a great way to explore a new pose without falling off kilter. Blocks can be used at three different heights for support and stability. Use a block to help you through triangle pose, or slip the block underneath your lower back when you are in bridge pose. The possibilities are endless.
Using a Yoga Strap
The second prop you may want to use is a belt or strap. Like the block, a yoga strap is an inexpensive addition to your yoga arsenal that will more than repay you in its usefulness. Most straps are cotton (you can get fancier hemp ones, but the basic cotton variety are just fine). They come in 6 feet or 8 feet, and they have a D-ring at the end for looping. Again, Gaiam makes a fine one.
Straps are particularly useful for seated poses. They enable you to stretch more deeply, and they can help you adjust the depth of your own pose. With a strap around your feet in pachimotanasana, or a seated forward fold, you will feel as if you are grasping your toes and getting the full benefit of this pose’s hamstring stretch.
For more advanced yogis, a strap can help you with binding, or keep your knees together when you are practicing backbends. As with the block, people at all levels benefit from a solid, basic strap.
Using a Yoga Blanket
Another prop that can be nice to have around for your home practice is a yoga blanket. Most studios have these for you to use when you are in a yoga class. Typical yoga blankets are woven cotton 8’ long and 4’ across. They are almost always folded. A blanket is not essential, but it is useful to have especially for challenging poses like shoulder stand, where alignment (and keeping your weight off your neck) is key. A blanket can also be helpful for those who may want an extra boost when they are sitting or need protection for their knees. Blankets are also nice to curl around when you are done with savasana (or corpse pose).