If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that we're capable of doing a lot of things from home — including practicing yoga. We transformed our dining room tables into our kids' school desks. And that quaint corner in the living room? It's now our office and home gym.
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I went from teaching yoga in person to solely teaching it online, and one of the things I noticed from students was that they didn't have certain yoga props, like blocks and straps. So we got creative and substituted with everyday items.
For example, a towel or scarf is a great alternative to a strap, and a book can be used in place of a block. These things not only helped people continue their yoga practice at home, but they also helped people save money and storage space.
Between your kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, I gathered some of the best household yoga props.
You probably already use a towel while getting your flow on, whether it's to wipe away sweat or cover your eyes during Savasana. But a towel can be handy for other yoga uses, too.
For starters, if you don't have a yoga mat, you can spread a large towel on the floor and secure it by placing little paperweights on its corners.
You can also use a towel in place of a bolster by folding a large towel in half and rolling it the exact way you would roll your yoga mat. Once it's rolled up, you can place it under your head or knees during Savasana, as well as other restorative poses.
If you don't have a yoga block at home, use a thick, sturdy book or a few chapter books tied together. Blocks provide height and length to help you get into certain poses or deepen stretches — and books are a good alternative. They also give you some support if you don't quite have the balance to maintain a pose.
For example, when you're doing Parivrtta Trikonasana (revolved triangle pose), your hand may not easily reach the floor so using a book can help you get into this pose and deepen the stretch.
3. Food Storage Container
Yup, those plastic containers are for more than storing your leftovers. If you have some durable lunch boxes, you can use them in place of yoga blocks. Although containers or lunch boxes may not be as heavy as a dense book, they can add length to your poses.
If you're doing a seated Forward Fold, for instance, you can place a container at the soles of your feet to make the stretch more intense for those who can grab their toes.
4. Canned Soup
If you use weights in your practice (yoga sculpt, anyone?), soup cans are a great substitute for one- or two-pound dumbbells while doing yoga sculpt poses.
For example: Hold a soup can in each hand. Get into Chair pose and lift your arms up toward the ceiling. As you lower your arms back down to your sides, straighten your body into Tadasana (Mountain pose). Repeat for 10 to 20 reps, finding your rhythm and creating small pulses to feel a burn.
Other great yoga sculpt poses to do with soup cans are Eagle chest flyes and Warrior I rows. You can also use soup cans to hold your towel in place if you're using it as a yoga mat.
5. Bathroom Rug
Using your bathroom rug during your yoga flow may sound a little strange, but it's actually helpful when doing hip openers and restorative poses.
Grab two rugs to cushion your knees while practicing Bhekasana (Frog pose). You can roll them and adjust as needed depending on how much support you're looking for.
If you're longing for the weighted, lavender-scented eye pillow that you would have at the end of your yoga class (seriously, it can feel like a cherry on top of the sundae after a 45-minute Vinyasa flow), grab a sock.
Fill it with uncooked rice (or grains) and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, then tie a knot at the opening of the sock and place it over your eyes during Savasana. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth and feel your heart rate drop.
7. Couch Cushion
Firm couch cushions can be used as a meditation pillow or a bolster for your practice. You can use it to help you sit more upright and prevent your shoulders from slouching forward while meditating.
To add a bit more relaxation to legs up the wall, place the couch cushion perpendicular to the wall (about five inches away). Sit on your cushion on your left side, hug your knees into your chest and carefully roll toward the center of your cushion. Facing the wall, slowly lower your back as you extend your legs up the wall and rest your shoulders and head on your mat or a blanket.
You can also use a couch cushion in place of a bolster when doing a wide-legged Forward Fold or Child's pose by placing the cushion between your legs and gently folding forward onto the prop.
For certain yoga poses, such as binding twists and side stretches, you can use a scarf in place of a strap to help you get into the stretch if you can't bring your hands together or your hands to your feet.
A scarf can be particularly helpful for Gomukhasana (cow face pose) and Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (extended hand to big toe pose) if you don't have the mobility or flexibility to get into these poses.
For instance, when you're standing in Mountain pose in Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, simply lift one leg up and wrap your scarf around the sole of your foot. Stretch your foot out in front of you while holding the opposite end of the scarf. Using a scarf in this pose helps to maintain a straight back rather than scrunching up.
A wool or thick cotton blanket is helpful during a restorative yoga session. Fold it and use it as a bolster or place it over you during your final rest pose for comfort.
To use a blanket in Child's pose, for example, roll the blanket and lay it horizontally between your hamstrings and calves. Sit your hips back so that the back of your thighs are resting on your blanket.
For extra support in Savasana, roll your blanket and place it about halfway up your back; adjust it so that it's aligned with your spine. Open your arms out to the sides, close your eyes and breathe in and out.
Believe it or not, you can do yoga while sitting in a chair. Of course, you can do seated poses or side stretches while sitting on the floor, but you can also use a chair to provide assistance with certain poses.
For example, when doing Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog), place the palms of your hands on the back of the chair and set your gaze at your feet. Then, slowly lower your chest down until it's parallel to the floor. Be mindful of the stability of the chair and add weight to it, as needed, to prevent potential injuries.
2 Things to Consider When Using Household Yoga Props
1. Keep Safety in Mind
If you have any injuries and are unsure if you should use any household items as props for yoga, consult your doctor and a certified yoga instructor. They can recommend modifications and different poses for you to try. Slowly incorporate DIY yoga props into your practice to see what works for you and what doesn't.
2. Consider the Style of Yoga
It's important to be mindful of the props you choose to use while practicing certain types of yoga. If you're doing Yin or restorative yoga, you may want to avoid using canned soups and reach for a blanket, couch cushion or sock instead to help make your practice more relaxing.
If you're doing hot yoga and sweat quite a bit, use a towel to sop up your sweat on your mat and help prevent you from slipping on your mat.
Lastly, if you're doing a yoga flow that involves constant movement, such as Vinyasa, then consider reaching for props that are easy to grab and move, such as books or storage containers, so your transitions between poses are smoother.