When practicing online yoga, we often come to a moment where the teacher says “Okay, if your hamstrings are a bit tight, go ahead and grab your yoga strap.” At this point, many of us think to ourselves, “Uh, yeah, my hamstrings are very tight. But no, I don’t just happen to have a yoga strap hanging around…” So, what to do?
First of all, don’t shy away from a class with a prop list. In most classes, you can skip the prop and just make the best of it. However, there are times when using them just feels so good—they can make you feel supported, or expanded, or simply…“propped up!” The great news is, you don’t need to spend vital resources on buying anything new. There are plenty of household items you can use instead. Read on for our favorite on-hand substitutions that will make your home feel just like a studio.
As crazy as it sounds, even a few decades ago, yoga mats didn’t exist. The primary purpose of a yoga mat is to create a non-slip surface for standing poses (so your feet don’t slide away from each other). But if your primary practice is Restorative, Yin, or reclined Hatha or Mat Pilates, you can practice on a soft rug, blanket, or towel. If you are doing standing poses, try doing them on a wood or tile floor. You’ll find that standing balance poses like Tree really lend themselves to no mat at all, as will this yoga class, which emphasizes sliding and gliding movements:Slide and Glide with Tara JudelleHatha – 30 min
Blocks are usually used to shorten the distance between you and the floor, most commonly when your hand doesn’t reach the ground in a standing pose (like Triangle or Half Moon). However, there are many other fun and creative ways that blocks can be used during your practice, like placing two blocks under your bent knees during Supta Baddha Konasana. If you need the blocks for their hard surface, try a big dictionary or several hardcover books stacked up (just make sure the stack is sturdy if you’re going to be leaning on it). You can also pull out a canned item from your kitchen—the height of a can is often just the lift you need. If you don’t need a hard surface, like in Supta Baddha Konasana, try sofa cushions or pillows for soft support. Give one of the harder substitution options a try during this energizing flow: Start Your Day with Energy & Focus with Jason CrandellVinyasa Flow – 30 min
A strap is mostly used to elongate the reach of your arms, such as when you’re on your back, reach up to grab your foot, and can’t quite make it. For times like these, try a scarf, towel, necktie, belt, or even bathrobe belt. There are, however, many instances where straps are meant to be buckled and fastened. This is often found in inversion-heavy classes where the strap is looped around the arms for support, or in Restorative classes where the body is meant to be relaxing fully. In instances like this, a belt with a buckle can often work. If not, a strap is usually the most affordable of all of the props and might be worth investing in if you plan on taking a lot of these classes. This fluid, stretchy yoga class, however, is substitution-friendly:Creaky Morning Flexibility with Marc HolzmanHatha – 20 min
Many Iyengar, Restorative, and inversion-heavy classes utilize the stability of a wall. If you don’t have free wall space at home, try the back of a door. Just make sure the door is locked and no one will surprise you by opening it! Try it out (along with a bunch of other swaps) in this propped-up yoga practice:Super Props for Active Beginners with Amy IppolitiHatha – 30 min
Often used to elevate the torso in forward bends or provide a supported lift in backbends, bolsters are firm and are meant to be leaned on. You’ll find they are used heavily in Restorative classes and many of the yoga classes “for women.” Try substituting rolled-up blankets or towels, stacked throw pillows, or a couple of couch cushions. If using blankets or towels, make the rolls tight. You want to avoid the “squish” that can happen with a loose fold. This cozy Restorative yoga class is a great place to test out a few options:Personal Retreat with Marc HolzmanRestorative – 45 min
Yoga blankets can be used for a variety of purposes—from elevating your hips in a forward bend, to supporting your shoulders in a shoulder stand, to simply covering your whole body during Savasana. The blankets are meant to be firm, so you may find that while the throws you have at home make a perfect Savasana cover-up, they are not so great for elevating your hips. In this case, try a few folded up towels, they usually hold up a bit better. Discover how a blanket or towel can support you in a variety of ways in this soothing Restorative yoga practice:Support for Your Lower Back with Elena BrowerRestorative – 20 min
Chairs are often simply used for stability in standing balance poses or to support your legs in Savasana, but they can also play a very important and complex role in Iyengar yoga. If you are needing a chair for stability while standing, any surface can do—a tabletop, counter, or even a wall. For support under the legs in Savasana, you can easily throw your legs up onto a sofa. However, if you are interested in embarking on an Iyengar practice, there are some practices done with an official “yoga chair” that are nothing short of extraordinary. A yoga chair looks like a simple folding chair but has the back support taken out. This extra space is used in all sorts of creative ways, such as supported upside down backbends. If you know you love Iyengar yoga, you might consider investing in one of these. The following class will give you an idea of how a chair can be used to support more advanced postures:Dynamic Chair Work with Tias LittleHatha – 45 min
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