yoga block used for balance

How to Use Props to Support Your Yoga Practice

Learn when and how aids like straps, blocks, and mats can improve your yoga experience.

By Team PelotonUpdated March 8, 2024


If you’ve decided to add the practice of yoga to your workout routine—or you’re doing power yoga regularly but want some tips on how to make your experience even better—you’ve come to the right place. Along with the classic yoga poses that form the foundation of your practice, there are also some key yoga props that can make it easier to get into and hold various poses, and benefit all yogis, from beginner to advanced. Whether you’re attending your first yoga class or your hundredth, these are the aids you should consider. 

The Importance of Yoga Props

First things first: Do you really need yoga props? Technically, no. But practically, absolutely yes. Meaning, yoga is a come-as-you-are activity. You are not required to bring anything other than a willing mind and body to get started.

But practically speaking, yoga props can help you deepen and settle into poses without losing your balance or causing unnecessary strain. The benefits of yoga are vast, but one of the top reasons people practice yoga is that it helps improve flexibility. The right yoga props help you increase your range of motion while having a more effective, whole-body experience during your yoga class. Also, when used properly, yoga props can help protect you from injury by safeguarding you from overextension or being thrown out of alignment. 

Yoga Props for Beginners and Advanced Practitioners

For anyone new to yoga, being able to really sink into a pose and improve your flexibility will likely require the use of a few strategic yoga props. Adding a strap to your yoga practice, for instance, will allow you to have greater reach during a stretch so that you can safely explore new yoga binds. 

But props aren’t only used by beginners. Many advanced-level yogis rely on yoga props like blocks to help adjust their alignment and maintain the integrity of the pose and their flow as they test their limits by deepening a pose. 

Meanwhile, yoga mats and pillows are great for practitioners of all levels to protect your joints when you’re on the floor, provide a surface with grip for your feet, and create a calm and enjoyable environment for your practice. 

Essential Yoga Props

All of the props recommended below are designed to make your yoga practice better, enhance your stretches, and improve your flow. 

Yoga Mat: The Foundation

Yoga mats literally come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, but the most common ones are roughly two feet by five feet and are made of natural or synthetic material that provides both cushioning and grip. It’s good to find a style you like since you’ll be standing, sitting, or lying on the mat for most of your class. Yoga mats can be easily rolled up for storage in your car or closet.

Yoga Blocks: Support and Depth

Yoga blocks are about nine inches long, six inches wide, and three or four inches deep. They can be made of many different materials, but cork, foam, or wood tend to be the most popular. These props can be used to help support you in seated poses when you don’t yet have the flexibility that a position requires, or you can use them in both seated and standing poses to help deepen a stretch as well. 

Yoga Straps: Flexibility and Reach

A yoga strap, also sometimes called a belt, is a narrow strip of material about six feet long that can be used to help you extend a stretch and improve your reach in a pose where otherwise you would not have the flexibility. The straps are usually made out of hemp, cotton, or nylon and will have a plastic cinch or metal D-ring at one end so you can adjust the strap length depending on your pose.

Yoga Blankets and Pillows: Comfort and Support

In addition to comfortable clothes, the right props will also help you relax. Yoga blankets are made from soft yet durable material that allows you to stand, sit, or lie on them during your class. You might also roll a blanket up and use it instead of a block for certain poses. Blankets are meant to make your yoga experience more relaxing and comfortable. They should create slight friction against your mat so they will not slide around if you layer them on top. Like blankets, yoga pillows aim to bring a level of relaxation to your practice. Yoga pillows are typically shaped like bolsters and made from dense material. They are firmer than typical pillows, making them great props to support your back during various poses or when lying on the floor.

How to Use Yoga Props

The way you integrate these aids into your yoga practice will depend largely on the type of yoga you do and your level as a practitioner. Let’s take a look at a few ways yoga props may benefit you and when it makes sense to add them to your routine.

Using Yoga Blocks for Balance and Alignment

Yoga blocks (or yoga bricks, as they are sometimes called) are a favorite tool among yogis and yoga teachers. They're perfect for beginners who want to deepen their poses but can’t quite reach the floor without straining or losing proper alignment in a pose. Yoga blocks can help you safely deepen and breathe into your stretches and keep you from losing your balance. Advanced practitioners may also benefit from using blocks in a different way: to extend a stretch or test your balance. For example, standing on two blocks while doing a Wide Legged Standing Forward Fold provides a deeper angle to the floor. Meanwhile standing on a block while practicing Tree Pose increases the need for balancing precision.

Enhancing Yoga Poses With a Yoga Strap 

The yoga strap is a tool you can use to increase your range of motion and deepen your stretches. It will be especially helpful for a beginner, because you might not be ready to execute some of the more popular yoga binds, and a strap will help you have more reach. And at the end of your class, as you’re stretching your legs and hamstrings during your restorative poses, your strap will be a lifesaver. 

The Role of Yoga Blankets and Pillows

Although not a required piece of yoga gear, lots of yogis like to bring along special blankets to roll under the knees, hips, or neck for extra support during certain poses. You might also like to use it for warmth during Savasana, which will be your final resting pose, to aid in your overall relaxation. 

Yoga pillows are also great for additional hip support during seated postures, or to place under your knees to protect your lower back while lying flat on the floor. Having just a bit of extra cushioning can make all the difference in protecting and aligning your spine during your yoga practice. 

When to Use Yoga Props for Specific Poses

Certain poses benefit more from the use of props than others. Use this list to consider when you might want to include a prop, and how it can help you with a pose, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced. 

Props for Standing or Vertical Poses

Yoga mats are key for every level, but beginners especially may find them useful to prevent sliding on the floor when learning foundational poses like Warrior 1 and 2 or as cushioning for the Cobra pose. Advanced practitioners will benefit from the extra padding on the joints during poses like a forearm stand, where elbows and hands absorb the most pressure. And those engaged in forms of the practice like Yin yoga will appreciate the extra cushion during the long holds.

Meanwhile, blocks come in handy for beginners in any position where it’s difficult to reach the floor, like Triangle Pose or Half Moon. Placing a block between your lower hand and the floor will help you keep your core muscles tight and help take the pressure off your lower back and legs. But yoga blocks are not just for beginners. Some of the most established yogis use yoga blocks to challenge their posture and explore more complex poses. For instance, you’ll appreciate the assistance of a yoga block placed directly behind your hands as an intermediate step when learning to lift your feet off the floor as you prepare for a headstand or Crow Pose

Props for Seated and Restorative Poses

Straps, blankets, and pillows are essential aids to deepen your stretch and help you relax into a restorative pose. If you’re a beginner, you might be wondering how exactly to use your yoga strap. In a seated position, loop the strap around the foot of whichever leg you're stretching and hold on to your strap instead of your leg or calf, to help pull the leg more closely to your torso without creating too much strain or tension. (Yoga straps are also a great tool for standing postures, like Dancer Pose). More advanced yogis might use a strap for poses like Compass Pose. Instead of reaching your arm overhead and grasping the foot of your raised leg, you can modify the degree of stretch by looping a strap around your foot and holding the ends with your opposite hand.

And of course, whether beginner or advanced, who doesn’t like a warm soft blanket to cover themselves with during Savasana?

Tips on Incorporating Props Into Your Yoga Practice

The aim of yoga props is to support you, whether you want a blanket for comfort during a restorative yoga class or a block to deepen a pose in advanced yoga. There is no right or wrong way to use a prop, so be open to experimentation and you may find a use for it that you hadn’t considered before.

Always let your use of props be guided by your body and how you are feeling. If a pose feels too intense, ease some of that tension with a strap or block. If you feel like you’re ready to challenge yourself, use your block to push the limits of a stretch or balancing pose.

You don’t need to make every pose about your props—it’s perfectly fine to do the poses (or even the whole class) without props if you feel like keeping things simple. When and how you use your yoga props is entirely up to you. And finally, if you’re still not sure whether you are making the best use of the aids, talk with your instructor for feedback and additional ideas on prop use.

The Takeaway

With the right props and knowledge of how to use them in hand, you’re ready to take a yoga class using props with confidence.

 Remember that perfecting your yoga game takes time. Your body’s flexibility and range of motion will continue to improve as long as you commit to rolling out your mat and moving through your flows as often as possible. While you’re doing that, don’t be afraid to embrace the various yoga props and tools available to assist you. Use your blocks and straps to make deeper stretches more accessible, or to make beginner poses a little more challenging as you gain confidence. Before long, you’ll be head over heels in love with your yoga practice. 

Looking for more guidance on how to integrate props into your yoga practice? Start here:


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