Ready to take your yoga to new levels? Props and other supportive yoga gear – beyond the proverbial yoga mat – can make all the difference. They help you keep proper body alignment and avoid injury from slipping, bending too much or placing too much weight on joints.
Accessories also can help build confidence, says Marian Garfinkel, adjunct professor at Temple Medical School in Philadelphia and a yoga and arthritis researcher. “But they need to be used with discretion,” she says. “One prop may help one person, but not another.”
Direction from a certified yoga instructor can help you find which accessories work best for you. Here are a few to try.
Chair: A sturdy folding chair helps with balance during many standing and kneeling poses, and can provide support as you get up and down from the floor. At least two legs of the chair should rest on the yoga mat to prevent slipping.
Blocks: If you have difficulty bending to reach the floor during stretches, a foam block (from $5) can help. Rest your hand on the block – so you don’t have to bend all the way to the floor – to reduce strain. Or, try blocks with built-in handles like Stick-e’ Wrist Saver Block ($20) that enables a natural grip.
Straps: Loop a strap over your feet and pull yourself forward to achieve a deeper stretch in seated, forward-bend poses. Garfinkel suggests a cotton strap with a metal buckle for security and durability, like Hugger Mugger’s Cotton D-Ring Strap ($10).
Blankets: Experts love traditional Mexican blankets (from $12) to sit on or to roll up and place under the knees, neck or back in some sitting and lying poses.
Padded Gloves and Socks: Gloves and socks made with a non-slip sole like Stick-e Toeless Yoga Socks and Gloves ($20) can help protect and provide increased grip.
Bolsters: A bolster also provides support and helps you further relax into a posture like Pigeon when it is placed under your bent forward leg to reduce the intensity of the stretch. To make cleaning easier, opt for one with a removable, washable cover like Hugger Mugger’s (starting at $73).
Cushions: Wearable cushions like Stick-e’s Knee and Wrist Savers ($20 each, stick-e.com) cushion and elevate the wrist and just below the knee to help cushion and better align joints. Yoga also is much more than poses and includes breathing, relaxation and meditation, among other practices. For a comfortable sitting posture, even in a chair, a V-shaped meditation cushion like Hugger Mugger’s ($53) gently tilts your pelvis forward to protect your lower back.
Learn more about yoga for arthritis from the Arthritis Foundation’s DVD, Arthritis-Friendly Yoga.