B.K.S. Iyengar in two classic back bends (from Light on Yoga)...
For many of us, a bit of a boost is needed for these Asanas.
A wooden backbender is the classic prop for these Asanas. But who has room for a full-sized backbender?
It's easy, though, to improvise a reasonable substitute, using other props or even household items.
Below are two examples of improvised backbenders:
This version uses two bolsters, two blankets and a belt. One bolster is placed across the mat, with the other placed perpendicular to it in a T-formation. The two blankets are unfolded once, then rolled up from the short end (along the long side), and placed one on top of the other. A long belt (or two short belts tied together) is used to provide traction for the feet.
In this second version, you need two blocks, one bolster and one blanket. The two blocks are placed on their second elevation side by side across the mat. The bolster is placed over the blocks, with a bit more than half on the side away from the blanket. The blanket is unfolded once and rolled up from the short end (as above).
With all of the three setups above - the backbender and the two improvised setups - the feet would be at the left end and the head at the right end, in the same orientation as Mr. Iyengar. The pelvis is placed at the highest point on each setup, with the back curving down and over the setup to create a domed shape in the chest. The legs would be stretched out and firm. If you are using the belt, place the heels against the belt and provide traction by holding the belt with the hands down by the hips.
Other substitutions are also possible... Anything firm and not too wide can be used in place of the bottom bolster or blocks. This could be a stack of blankets or towels folded to mimic the shape of a bolster. A tightly rolled rug could be used in place of the bolsters. Thick, heavy books (remember encyclopedias?) can replace the blocks. Be creative!
Check out our other posts on improvising props to support your yoga practice at home.