Updated: Jan 24, 2021
In Iyengar yoga, we often use pieces of equipment, called props, to facilitate getting into or staying in a pose. Iyengar yoga studios provide a wide variety of props that you can use during class. But what about at home? Well... No props? No problem! Use what you have to hand. Below are some ideas for using items you already have around the house as improvised props for your yoga practice.
Well, this one is easy. You can use blankets from your bed. Or, you can use large towels. Or a shawl. You might have to fold them differently or use a different number than you would traditional yoga blankets. Experiment to see what works best for you.
Here's an example below. On the right are four traditional yoga blankets. On the left are two household blankets and a shawl. The height is about the same.
In place of traditional wooden blocks, you can use large books, small stools, upside-down plant pots, anything that is firm and stable. Again, you’ll have to figure out what gives you the right height and support.
A few examples are shown below. Traditional wooden yoga blocks are shown on the right. On the left are other items that you can use: big, thick dictionaries; an upturned wastepaper basket; and a plastic bin (no need to empty it!).
Sometimes, what you use doesn't have to be as firm or stable as a wooden block, as you'll see in the example below, using stacked tissue boxes. This wouldn't work for Ardha Chandrasana, but it would be fine for Uttanasana.
A rolled up or folded blanket, quilt, mat or towel, or some combination of these can give you a very usable bolster. Even a roll of paper towels wrapped in a towel or blanket can be put to use.
In our example below, you can see a traditional bolster on the left and our improvised bolster on the right. We simply rolled up a couple of blankets.
And here, we've added a yoga blanket (on the left) and a cushion (on the right) to provide a setup for supported poses such as Supta Baddha Konasana. The height under the head can be adjusted with another blanket or a folded towel.
Belts are very useful when we need to give ourselves longer arms in order to do an asana. Think of Janu Sirsasana or Supta Padangusthasana... many people need a belt to reach their feet. A long scarf, a necktie, a soft belt, a length of rope – all of these can be used in place of a traditional yoga belt.
In our example below, you can see that the scarf on the left is about the same length as the traditional yoga belt on the right. Either one will give you longer arms when you need them!
Backless Folding Chair
This type of chair is used for a variety of poses, such as chair Sarvangasana, Savasana III (with legs on chair) or some of the backbends (e.g., Urdhva Dhanurasana). The back on these has been removed to leave only the frame so that it’s possible to sit or lie through the chair. But a little inventiveness can let an ordinary armless dining room chair serve as a substitute. In most cases, simply turning the chair sideways (so the back is against your hip) will let you use the chair for support. In other cases, a stool or footstool could be used.
Below, you can see, on the left, the type of chair typically used in Iyengar yoga classes. On the right is an old dining room chair repurposed for yoga. It was a bit wobbly, so it was strapped to make it more stable.
Setup for Salamba Sarvangasana
While there are many different setups for Salamba Sarvangasana, the traditional setup involves a foam board wrapped in a sticky map and topped with a number of opened blankets. You can see this setup below on the right. On the left is an improvised setup. It consists of:
A mat folded in half
Two folded rugs
Two blankets, opened up
A folded shawl, for under the head
A scarf, tied off to the width of the shoulders
Two dictionaries, for under the hips
So, you see, lack of traditional yoga props is no reason to let your yoga practice slide. You can use improvised props in your personal practice or for taking online classes.
Tell us your story - How have you adapted for 'lockdown' yoga? Send us your contributions at email@example.com. We'd love to hear from you.
All photos: Carole Carpentier