Yoga Props in Every Class and How to Use Them

Props are an asset to any yoga practice, for beginners on up to yoga masters. Their role is to support your body and help you get the most out of every pose you do. When you first start doing yoga, you may see other students grab a few props before class but not all teachers offer instruction in how to use them. To help you feel more comfortable with props, take a look at the ones you will undoubtedly come across at the yoga studio or gym.  

Yoga Mat

Yoga Mat
Nicholas Eveleigh/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The first prop you need to know about is the basic yoga mat. Although it is certainly possible to do yoga without a mat, using one is the standard practice in yoga classes and they help your practice by providing cushioning and traction. Communal mats are usually available to rent at yoga studios, but after your first few classes, it makes sense (financially and hygienically) to buy your own. Mats can cost as little as $20 but you'll probably wear through a budget one pretty quickly. Premium mats are in the $50-$100 range. If you're not sure which mat to buy, consult our comparison chart to help you decide which mat best suits your priorities.

Yoga Blanket

Forward Bend With a Yoga Blanket
Debra McClinton/The Image Bank/Getty Images

A simple thick blanket makes a versatile yoga prop, which is why neatly folded woven blankets such as this one are provided in most yoga classes. If you want to use a blanket for yoga at home, there's no need to buy something special. You probably already have something around the house that will work just fine. 

One of the most basic and effective uses of a blanket is to raise your hips above the knees for a more comfortable cross-legged seat. Just place the folded blanket under your butt. Other common functions include cushioning your knees in kneeling poses and keeping you warm during final relaxation. A blanket is used in a forward fold in this photo to close the gap between the chest and the thighs so the torso can release. 

Yoga Block

Half Moon With a Block
Rob Lewine/Tetra Images/Getty Images

Like blankets, yoga blocks are used to make you more comfortable and improve your alignment. Blocks are particularly useful for standing poses in which your hands are on the floor. Placing a block under your hand has the effect of raising the floor to meet your hand wherever it is instead of forcing the hand to come to the floor and compromising some other part of the pose in the process. This can be seen here in half moon pose. The block under the right hand allows the chest to open toward the ceiling. Without the block, the chest would be turned toward the floor. You can also sit on them in poses like virasana and even use them for core work. 

Yoga blocks are made of foam, wood, or cork. They can be turned to stand at three different heights, making them very adaptable. If you plan to do a lot of yoga at home it's probably worth it to get your own block or two. If you're going to attend classes, the blocks will be provided. 

Yoga Strap

Forward Bend With a Yoga Strap
Eliza Snow/E+/Getty Images

Yoga straps, also called belts, are particularly useful for poses where you need to hold onto your feet but cannot reach them. The strap basically acts as an arm extender.  As shown here in pascimottanasana, the use of the strap allows you to maintain a flat back instead of slumping forward. It's also great for poses with a bind of the hands behind the back (marichyasana, for example) that you can't quite make. Often moving the hands toward one another along the strap is a way to make progress toward the full bind over time.

You probably have something around your house that would work as a strap (like a belt or even a towel) and yoga studios supply them for use during class. There are lots of other ways to use a yoga strap to enhance your practice too.

Yoga Bolster

Yoga Bolster
Debra McClinton/Taxi/Getty Images

Bolsters have many uses for yoga students. They can take the place of a stack of blankets under your butt for more comfortable seated poses and forward bending. Place them under your knees or your back when reclining for support and passive stretching. They are particularly handy in restorative and prenatal yoga classes. If you take this type of class the bolsters will be provided. If you want to do restorative at home, it may be worth it to invest in your own bolster. 

The are two basic bolster shapes: round and flat. The one shown here is flat. It's generally a more ergonomic shape. However, round bolsters can be useful too when you want more support or a bigger stretch. It comes down to personal preference. Try to use both types in class before you decide which one will best suit your home practice.