Whether you’ve been a regular in a yoga studio or only popped in for classes once in a while, we can all agree on one thing: Taking your practice to your home studio—be it an open space in your living room or a patch of grass in your backyard—can be a little daunting without the help of a yoga instructor to guide you and offer adjustments. Yoga studios are also generally stocked with props, or tools that can make it easier or more comfortable to get into certain poses or allow you to stretch deeper and more safely. But—surprise!—you can get these items to use at home. To help you feel a little more grounded in your at-home practice, check out these three top yoga props.
1. Yoga blocks
The concept behind yoga blocks is pretty simple: They provide height and support under your hands, feet, or other body parts so that you’re able to rest and relax into more challenging poses. Blocks can improve your stability, promote proper alignment, boost range of motion, and deepen your stretch. The average yoga block measures 6 inches by 9 inches and is either 3 1/2 or 4 inches thick—most people prefer wider, though if you have narrower hips and plan to use it between your legs as a spacer, the slimmer cut may be more comfortable.
How to use a yoga block
Yoga blocks can be incorporated into nearly every yoga pose, so feel free to get creative and experimental. They can be placed on the floor in any orientation based on the height or surface area you need. For example, you can put one beneath your bottom hand on the tallest setting in balance poses like half moon, under your palms on the lowest setting in standing split, or at the base of your spine in the middle setting for supported bridge pose. More advanced yogis can use blocks to challenge flexibility even further by placing them under each foot in splits, or standing atop blocks while in forward fold for an unmatched hamstring stretch.
What to look for in a yoga block
In general, look for blocks with rounded or diagonal-cut edges so as to eliminate any discomfort when resting your weight into them. Yoga blocks are generally made of either foam or cork. Foam not only tends to be the most affordable option, but it’s also the lightest and provides the most give. While placing your hands, feet, or back on a foam yoga block won’t quite feel akin to a pillow, the foam will absorb plenty of shock, making it a good choice for beginners. A well-reviewed option is the two-pack from Gaiam, which nearly 20,000 reviewers gave an average of 4.8 stars. Having a pair is always nice—you have two hands and two feet, after all—and Gaiam offers a choice of four colors.
Cork crops up everywhere from tropical yoga retreats to neighborhood studios because it’s a durable and sustainable option. Unlike synthetic foam, cork is a renewable natural material that may make you feel a little better about your impact on the planet (which is always a great place to be mentally when you’re trying to find your zen). Cork makes blocks slightly heavier, but some folks find this a bonus because it feels more anchored to the ground, thereby being a safer option for those with limited stability. If your yoga practice tends to be a sweaty endeavor, cork offers more texture and absorbency for slip resistance than foam, and it’s naturally antimicrobial to resist odors. Manduka’s cork blocks earned an average of 4.9 stars from about 2,500 reviewers, and come in 3 1/2-inch and 4-inch thicknesses, as well as singles and pairs.
- Get the Gaiam Yoga Block 2-Pack from Amazon starting at $17.04
- Get the Maduka Cork Yoga Block from Amazon starting at $18
2. A yoga strap
A yoga strap is, in essence, an extremely long woven belt that’s about an inch and a half wide. There are numerous uses for yoga straps, but chief among them is helping you maintain bound or binding yoga poses. Binds involve clasping the hands together while wrapping arms around the body this way or that, or grabbing onto a foot or both feet with your hands. If any such position is out of reach, a strap can help safely get you into the pose and maintain it for longer.
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How to use a yoga strap
A strap is a great way to deepen a stretch and maintain proper alignment. For example, in a seated forward bend, you can place the strap around the arches of your feet and hold each side of the strap in your hands to allow you to pull gently and fold further (keep an microbend in the knees, especially if you feel discomfort). Be aware that overstretching or overextending—especially on “cold” unstretched muscles—can put you at risk of a ligament tear, so always make sure you use yoga straps well into your practice or at the very end when you’re nice and warmed up. Hot yoga tends to accelerate the warming-up process, making straps a great addition to a particularly sweaty practice.
What to look for in a yoga strap
Because you’ll want to apply some pulling force while using the strap, ensure yours is made of durable ripstop materials like cotton, polyester, or nylon. While you can equally use a towel in place of a yoga strap, a yoga strap offers the benefit of adjusting the length with a buckle fastener or D-ring. Yoga strap lengths begin at 6 feet and go all the way up to 10 feet. The longer you go, the more room you have to play with, like for creating a loop to place around your raised foot and holding onto it with your hands in dancer’s pose.
Reviewers praise the softness and durability of the No Limits strap from Lululemon, maker of the best yoga mat we’ve tested. At 6 feet, it should be adequate for most people, but if you need more length, the Tumaz yoga strap offers three options—6 feet, 8 feet, and 10 feet—and boasts a 4.8-star average rating from about 7,800 reviews.
- Get the No Limits Stretching Strap from Lululemon for $16
- Get the Tumaz Yoga Strap from Amazon starting $8.95
3. Yoga wheel
A yoga wheel is a wheel-y good idea if you’re looking to take your balancing poses or inversions to new heights. (Inversions include anything where your head is below your heart and hips, be it wheel pose or camel.) These rings are usually about a foot in diameter and 5 inches wide, made of durable wood or plastic covered in a foam or cork for comfort. Placing the wheel at the base of your spine while lying down also relieves pressure and tension off your back, operating as a form of self-myofascial release. If you, like a lot of the population, find yourself hunched over at a desk for the majority of the day, a yoga wheel can help realign the spine and assist with alleviating pain associated with kyphosis, a rounding of the mid-spine that causes the shoulders to fall forward.
How to use a yoga wheel
There’s something about a yoga wheel that just looks playful, so have fun with it. By reclining over top of it, a wheel is a great way to open up your chest in order to prime yourself for backbends. Resting in that position not only uses gravity to limber you up, it can help you acclimate to the feeling of being upside down. Unlike most yoga props, yoga wheels most often aim to make a pose more challenging, so a more advanced practitioner will likely get more use from it. For example, another way to use a wheel is to place it under the instep of your back foot as you make your way toward king pigeon pose.
What to look for in a yoga wheel
The wheel itself should be rigid and inflexible. Look for a yoga wheel boasting a load capacity that can support your bodyweight. The outer material of foam or cork is more of a personal preference, though cork tends to be less slippery when wet with sweat and pricier. Not all outer layers are removable, but your wheel will be easier to clean and maintain if the layer can be taken off. Most come in the standard size, but you’ll encounter smaller dimensions for children, travel, or accessing harder-to-reach nooks and crannies of your body.
A couple wheels worth considering: the cork-covered B Yoga Freedom Wheel, which reviewers praise for its durability and can hold up to 250 pounds, and the foam-covered option from Pete’s Choice, which sustains up to 350 pounds and comes packaged in sets with yoga straps and blocks, for a value buy of all your yoga prop needs.
- Get the B Yoga Freedom Wheel from Anthropologie for $65
- Get the Pete’s Choice Yoga Wheel sets from Amazon starting at $26.85
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.