The practice of Chair Yoga makes it clear that a prop will be used during practice, because it states chair right in its name. Yes, the chair is definitely a prop that can help to make yoga more accessible to more bodies, and that’s what gets me pumped to share this practice with anyone that’s willing to listen, or anyone who’s willing to step back into their wellness goals! Since you’re still reading, I feel delighted to thank you for listening to me on this topic of props, because I think it’s a great topic!
If we look at the chair in it’s simplest form, it is there to provide support. Support of the body, support of the mind, even support of expanding one’s personal courage to walk into the practice of yoga. It’s there to welcome the elderly person that wants to continue their path towards wellness, while maintaining their independence. It there to support the de-conditioned adult find an opportunity to move again that doesn’t require extreme activity to feel vibrant in their health.
It can be a tool for someone carrying extra weight due to pregnancy, or other life circumstances. It can be a beneficial resource for someone that is healing from illness, or injury that’s desiring to be active in their recovery process. It can even be a practice for those who suffer from physical elements like arthritis, bulging disc, etc, and the availability of the chair helps them maintain an activity that they already love, just in a new found way. That actually is my personal journey with Chair Yoga as a student, and I’m grateful for it!
So, if the chair can provide all of that for a practice, why not amp it up a few notches with a handful of additional yoga props? I believe that if we’re going to move our bodies, we also need to be informed why we’re moving and where we’re moving. All the while gaining the understanding of how the movement benefits us physically and mentally.
Wow, just like that, in one simple declaration of personal thought, I’ve explained my love for props! By adding yoga props to your practice they can show us where we’re moving, inform us how to move efficiently for our personal circumstance. They can bring awareness to help strengthen us through endurance and stability, while making more postures safely available in our individual bodies.
With that being stated, what is the first item that comes to mind when hearing the word yoga prop? For me, naturally it’s a yoga chair, and a close second would be the yoga block. Yoga blocks are great for many reasons. The can support all the joints of our body, literally! Lifting your hips up in a seated position, strengthening the ankles with balance practice, supporting the writs with down dog, or whatever else you can dream of in a given posture. Creativity and exploration are all that’s required.
The yoga block can assist in making postures more accessible too by providing opportunities for both ease and challenge. For instance, if a student is practicing seated mountain pose and their legs are shorter in stature preventing them for being able to make strong contact to the floor. Blocks can be placed under their feet to elevate the floor to help maintain ideal alignment for their bodies, while creating a sense of stability.
A single block can also be used in between the hands to help mobilize and strengthen the upper back and neck with a series of postures that bring awareness to the upper body region. It is super effective and it’s always fun to share it with my students. Stay tuned, as I will be creating a video sharing shoulder awareness, mobility, and strengthening content in the near future.
Another great prop is yoga strap. I actually recommend a wide, elastic strap whenever possible. I refer them to as a bung-y strap, but I can’t guarantee that to be the official term. However; having the elasticity gives the opportunity for stretching and strengthening, while exploring range of motion for the ankles, hips, and shoulders. In a seated practice, it can be looped around the bottom of the foot to explore leg extensions. In doing so, the movement becomes one of mobility with the stretch for the back of the leg (hamstring) , and stability for the knee with the strengthen of the top of the leg (quadriceps).
Within a balancing posture, like tree pose, a yoga strap can be extended over the head with resistance between the hands creating awareness for the ideal shoulder, upper back, and torso action within the posture. When a prop can help the student find action, along with understanding within a given posture it’s a moment of brilliance that never bores me as a teacher, or as a student. Yoga is all about discovering what’s possible in physical practice and in mental thought. When the two overlap we have opportunity for growth, and that’s what I refer to as a, “Yes! Bravo!” moment.
Probably the most adored prop of students is the yoga blanket, because often it represents the end of practice and savasana is nearing, better known as resting pose. I can’t deny the sweet feeling of resting pose. I also can’t forget that using a blanket in appropriate times can also help our joints to feel supported during a posture. A folded blanket under the knee in a kneeling pose is helpful for the body by adding cushion for the joint. A rolled blanket under the ankles to support the toes in resting child’s pose is delightful for the body by adding support due to lack of flexibility, or mobility of the joint. A tri-folded blanket in pigeon pose is beyond welcomed for the body to help reduce the discomfort that can be discovered in this posture depending on one’s range of motion. For some this pose is splendid, and for others …. well, not so much and the blanket comes to the rescue! When this pose is practiced on the chair it can become even more accessible to those with limited external rotation, and it’s also welcomed support for those who need it.
There are so many ways to use blankets during a practice that can bring benefit to the individual practice. Admittedly, it may take a bit more time to incorporate blankets into your practice, and it’s always been worthwhile in my experience. One suggestion, is to grab a couple of blankets prior to practice and have them folded, or rolled before yoga begins. Place them along side the mat where they can be more readily implemented into the practice as needed. Overtime, just like any other prop they’ll be swapped in and out with ease! So please, don’t leave them only for the restful portion of the practice. Use them when the make sense to create support, and use them often to support ease of the breath to help posture be experienced to the fullest.
Then there’s the yoga mat. This may seem obvious, but I think it’s important to state that yoga mats are a valid part of a chair yoga practice. A yoga mat helps to define our practice space. It can provide support for standing and kneeling postures. It can give us space to explore standing postures and balance postures. As well as, short flowing sequences (one pose connecting the next pose) with the support of a chair. Also, if restorative postures are being practiced it provides additional cushion for the entire body which a good thing!
The selection of yoga mat is personal experience based on color, size, texture, density and cost. Take the time to research which mat is ideal and meets all the above stated categories if possible. It’s an item that should last a significant amount of time, dependent upon care, quality, and amount of usage. A yoga mat should motivate, or inspire a practice upon it’s presence. Select something that gets the creative, yoga, energy flowing. Its all about personal preference, so enjoy the yoga mat shopping and purchasing experience fully!
Lastly, but not the least favorite, is the yoga wall! That’s right, a space free of clutter within your home, that allows you the freedom to kick your feet up if chosen to do so. The wall can act as an anchor for the chair, by placing a pair of feet from the chair up against the baseboard. Which is great for connecting postures one after another, or practicing balancing poses. It simply ensures that chair is steady and stable as the practice unfolds.
A wall can also be used as a sensory tool bringing awareness to hip and shoulder action. Helping us to explore how our right and left sides are different allowing us to seek balance of the sides, as well as acceptance of our bodies in practice. One simple exercise that can be done is standing mountain pose at the wall. Go ahead, stand up and put your entire back body up against a wall, putting your heels hips distance, as close as you can to the base of the wall. Stack the body onto the wall, hips, shoulders, head if the neck allows, then close you eyes and breath. Sense where the body is making contact. Is it even from right to left? Sense where the body isn’t making contact. Is it normal, or reflective of the posture that’s been adopted over time?
Once the new awareness is gathered, it can be used to help us seek and work towards balance in the body. The wall is a great resource to helps us physically sense our bodies. It creates a body lab to help make new discoveries. While allowing immediate feedback when adjustments and new movement connections are made to help the individual practice grow. It can help us bend, twist, fold, go upside down, and most rewarding it can help us with supportive rest too .
As you now know, I believe yoga props are a fabulous way to enhance the practice of yoga on several levels and in a plethora ways. I encourage the use of them with curiosity. The use of them with confidence, and use of them often. It will help to enhance any individuals practice of yoga and make it more rewarding for them overtime!