With the advent of bodyweight exercises, there's yet another reason for yoga's growing popularity not just to lose weight, but to gain muscle tone, too. It's distinctly different than weight training and for the uninitiated, yoga can prove to be quite difficult what with its extreme stretches that have you pushing yourself to the limit.
That's exactly why yoga props and accessories are gaining recognition. From aiding beginners to execute complex moves, to acting as tools of resistance for those on intermediate and advanced levels, yoga props can make your practice easier or more challenging, based on how you use them.
Some of the most common accessories you can work with include:
- Mat: It serves as a base to execute your moves and is a specially designed no-slip mat (very important for inversions) that's long enough for you to stretch out on it from head to toe.
- Blanket: Used to ease back and neck pain or strain, one would typically be asked to roll it up under the stressed area to cushion the moves while striking the poses. Similar to a foam roller, you can also use the rolled up blanket to massage sore muscles.
- Strap: If your spine is giving you trouble, strap up. It helps strengthen the spine and can support you through various yoga poses. The flexible prop can be substituted by a towel for simple moves that challenge your flexibility, but essentially, you will need the strap to nail technique, form, balance and alignment until you can do so hands-free. Straps work as an accessory to help you stretch and hold poses for longer.
- Bolster: The hard cushion-like structure supports your shoulders to relax the nervous system, which in turn increases the flow of oxygen in the body and spreads a sense of calm. Bolsters are a great prop for those who have poor upper body strength and need assistance.
While these are some of the basic props used by yoga practitioners, new-age offshoots of yoga have racked up accessories of their own. Typically, hybrid forms like pole dancing yoga, (hula-)hoop yoga, aerial (cables) yoga and the likes make use of props that are unique to them.
In this week's episode of Health Soup,
our correspondent Faith Hunter tried her first hoop yoga class at the Jaya Healing Arts & Yoga Studio in New Jersey to show you what one can expect from a session. On the flipside, host Sarita Lou caught up with professional yoga teacher Dina Crosta from Monmouth Beach Yoga and Wellness to practically put to use basic yoga props while executing those asanas.
Needless to say, both had a blast and are major converts! Below is a little clip to give you a taste of what went down. But you can, of course, catch the whole episode here (titled Marma Therapy).