A yoga mat can be helpful in two ways: it can keep you from slipping while
practicing your poses or it can provide some padding for knees, hips, and
anyplace else where you don't have your own padding. The traditional "sticky
mat" is thin and doesn't offer much padding, but newer, thicker versions are now being produced. An alternative is to use a softer padded
mat in combination with the sticky mat or a cotton practice rug (which absorbs
perspiration and moisture as well as provides traction and stability). For a sampling of several different kinds of yoga mats see the yoga mats at Mats Mats Mats.
Blocks and Wedges
Blocks are used to help you practice asanas more correctly when you're not quite limber enough for the full stretch. A block will help
you modify a pose to accommodate your flexibility level. It is often used to ground the hand
during standing poses. A block's three dimensions allow you to progress in your poses. Blocks are available in lightweight
yet sturdy foam and hollow wood.
Wedges are also used to provide support. They can be used under the hips in a forward bend, under the heels in a squat, or under the hands to prevent overstretching in poses such as downward facing dog.
Straps are an essential aid in some yoga poses, and they're also helpful for many beginners where full flexibility is still developing. If you're not yet able to complete a certain pose, a strap can help you make the
connection and hold the pose longer. Some straps have loops on one or both ends to allow you to hook a hand or foot more easily.
Bolsters and Breathing Pillows
These soft props are often used in meditation, restorative, prenatal, and supported postures. Breathing pillows can be placed under the spine while lying on the
back to create a gentle arch. This opens the chest, making breathing (pranayama)
practice easier. Place a bolster or pillow under the knees in relaxation poses
to ease the lower back.
zafus and zabutons
Zafus, the traditional meditation pillow, are used to enhance your posture
and comfort in meditation. When you sit on the zafu in lotus or easy lotus pose,
your knees are forced toward the floor, which automatically straightens the
spine. This position -- erect spine, knees pointed toward the floor, hips open
and relaxed -- gives you the comfort needed during those long meditations.
A zabuton is a large meditation pillow that cushions your knees and ankles
during meditation practice. The smaller zafu is placed on top of the zabuton.
eyebags and neck Pillows
Eyebags help relieve tension around the eyes and brow. Quiet the eyes and
quiet the mind. Neck pillows give nurturing support to the neck and spine.
Both can be used during relaxation poses and are excellent for finding a
moment of inner peace in a busy day. Bags that can be heated in the microwave
or chilled in the freezer offer comforting warmth or refreshing coolness.
Sandbags can perform a variety of functions. The added weight will help you deepen some postures such as the hero's pose.
You can sit on a sandbag to get extra height for forward bends, or it can be used under the feet in a hamstring stretch.
Sandbags usually weigh about ten pounds.
Physio balls -- large air filled balls -- have become a popular item in physical therapy and in the gym. In yoga practice, physio balls are used to give support in poses such as back bends and hip openers.
Here's a sampling of yoga accessories and props available from our friends at Gaiam.
Click a product name or photo to visit Gaiam's online store.
Thirsty Yoga Towel
Hot yoga devotees, meet your new favorite prop. Placed on top of a yoga mat, this super absorbent, microfiber towel wicks away moisture and dries in half the time of a cotton towel even after hot yoga classes like Bikram.