In a previous entry, I shared about how props can not only assist, but also enhance practice. Most studios will have a supply of common props but what happens when studio props can’t be used or we are practicing at home and have limited props?
Depending on the purpose of the prop, we can find useful substitutes from everyday items! Here’s a look at how we can substitute some common props:
The mats we see in studios are actually quite a recent invention. They are easy to clean and can be helpful towards maintaining grip. In the past, people practiced on rugs.
While there are many mats for different budgets these days, it is also possible to practice on a large carpet, rug or blanket. If one is practicing a more static style like Restorative or Yin, a comfortable supportive surface should suffice.
However, if your practice is more dynamic like that of a Vinyasa/Flow or Hatha styles, one should consider finding a non-slip option on both sides of the mat. You can also add a non-slip surface under your rug or blanket to be prevent the rug from moving around as you practice. A grippy surface will also prevent any slippery accidents.
Another factor to consider would be thickness. If the option is too thin, it may be hard on the wrists if you are bearing weight on the hands. The same can also happen if you are using a thick and squishy exercise mat so it will be a good idea to test it out to see if it suits your needs.
Blocks can be substituted with boxes, books, cushions or water bottles. As they are used for a variety of reasons, you can decide on alternatives according to usage purpose:
- To increase height / length with minimal weight bearing: For example, your hands may not reach the floor in a standing forward fold and a prop will be useful as a stand to rest your hands on. In this case, there isn’t much weight on the prop so boxes and even a sturdy water bottle will work. If you are using books, a small trick will be to put a band around it so that it doesn’t flip open when you are moving it around.
- To increase height / length with load: This will apply in the case of poses where you need to rest a fair amount of weight on the prop. For example, you are looking for something to sit on in butterfly pose or a seated twist. In this case, possible alternatives can include a sturdy box, a stack of books, cushions or rolled up blankets/towels. If you need to place your hands on the prop to practice arm balances, then the prop should definitely be something firm and stable like a box or book.
- To assist in engagement: Blocks can be used to enhance our awareness of where to engage. An example would be squeezing the block between our legs in poses to engage the muscles near that region. In this case, anything that does not have a prickly/sharp surface and is relatively lightweight and firm will do. I have even used a mid-sized therapy ball for this purpose and it worked well.
- To supplement as a weight: Some teachers may also include elements of weight training in the practice so blocks can also work as light weights. One example would be to hold blocks between the hands in a standing or seated pose. In this case, anything with a bit of weight will do. This can be a book, water bottles filled with liquid or even canned food!
Straps are a very useful prop for increasing length and reminding us where to reach for or engage. They can be substituted with anything that is similar such as luggage straps, resistance bands, belts, long scarves and ropes. I would suggest finding something that is sturdier so that it doesn’t tear during usage so an expensive silk scarf will probably not be a good idea. Something with a loop will be convenient but you can always tie a knot instead if you need to.
Yoga bolsters are similar to regular bolsters except they are generally firmer and a little shorter. Fret not if you don’t have one. They can be substituted with pillows and cushions. You can also roll up towels, blankets or yoga mats to the width you need and they will work fine as well.
At the end of the day, props are just there to assist in your practice so anything that suits your purpose will do. Do you have other creative ways to substitute props? Share them with me in comments below!