In these strange times of imposed isolation, an accessible yoga practice can help ground the body and calm the mind. The Restore classes at the Shala often encompass poses from several styles that range from the prop-heavy Restorative Yoga style to the traditionally prop-free Yin Yoga. Over the few weeks I have been teaching online, I have noticed that students often struggle to find the right props at the beginning of or during the class. Getting used to teaching and practicing at home requires a bit of experimentation and inventiveness. Here is a practical guide to make-shift yoga props so you can make the most of your restore/yin yoga classes from home.
In my teaching and practice over the years, I have gone from not using props to using lots and lots of props. I have found that the more you nurture and support the body, the more you can relax and shift your state of mind. I therefore recommend you have at least a few basic props while practicing online. In the first instance, you don’t need to purchase any fancy yoga equipment; all you need is to make sure you have a few things handy before class and then experiment to see what works for you and what doesn’t.
In restorative poses, blankets are essential. However, blankets come in different shapes and sizes, from thin fleeces to wool picnic blankets. I recommend you find something thick; the thicker the better. I recommend a bedspread or two or wool picnic blankets. These can be folded in different ways and therefore are very versatile. Two is the minimum I would go for.
Bolster/ Bed Pillow
I am a fan of bolsters, but in case you don’t have one, you can use 2-3 bed pillows. Bed pillows are longer than cushions so they work to place under the knees or lower legs.
I recommend you have at least a sofa cushion or a yoga block around. Depending on the thickness, a cushion can support the head when lying down or can support the knees in poses like Butterfly.
Eye Cover and Socks
Both Yin and Restorative Yoga are styles that work on calming the nervous system down and cooling the body. As the body relaxes, your body temperature may drop and you may feel cold. It is therefore useful to have a blanket and socks to keep the body warm. Also, when lying on your back in a restorative pose, it is helpful to cover the eyes to induce a state of calm. Not everybody likes this, but you can try and see how it works for you. In the studio, we offer people eye bags to place over the eyes, but a simple towel, scarf or piece of clothing can be just as effective.
Belt or Tights
In some classes, I use yoga belts to tie the legs together or as a support for stretching. Yoga belts are simple belts that tie with a ring buckle. If you don’t have something like this around the house, a bathrobe belt or a long scarf or even a thicker pair of tights can be helpful.
Wall Space and/or Chair
In some classes, I use the wall to do make certain poses more accessible or to give the legs the opportunity to relax more. Sometimes, you end up in a room with no wall space. In this case, you can use a door, a wardrobe door or a bed as support.
Most yoga studios don’t have chairs around. When practicing at home, a chair can be a great prop especially in forward folds that may otherwise be inaccessible or not so restful. If we use a chair, I recommend one that has a square base (as opposed to a round one) and that you can slide your feet under (as opposed to a sofa or armchair).
If you wish to buy yoga equipment, I recommend Yogamatters who have been selling reliable basic props for a long time.
To recap, in my classes, I usually ask students to have:
- 2 bed pillows
- 2-3 blankets
- 1 cushion
- eye cover and socks
As a final note, I would strongly encourage you to find a place where you can do your yoga practice alone and undisturbed, a spot the feels cosy that you can keep using on a regular basis.
The Shala run online Restore/yin yoga classes 6 days a week.
By Raluca Musat