How Yoga Accessories Can Deepen Your Practice

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My first experience in a movement class was when I was about 5 years old, practicing along with my mom’s Jane Fonda training videos. In these aerobics-based sessions, we were told to use weights of one to three pounds to increase the difficulty of the movements. My mom had no weights, so I would use cans of tomato soup. I guess it was the first time I used accessories in a moving practice, and my first time I replaced a home accessory.

In my early days practicing yoga, accessories were not a big part of my practice. I started attending very large, mixed-level vinyasa classes at a popular Santa Monica studio. While blocks, straps, and reinforcements were available, there was not enough for everyone. Most teachers would give us the option to pick up accessories if we needed them, but I don’t remember ever being instructed on when, how, or why to use them.

See also: Why everyone (including you) should use accessories in their practice

Embracing yoga accessories

When I completed my yoga teacher training a few years later, my teaching reflected a similar use (or non-use) of accessories. While it wasn’t necessarily against them, I had a general feeling that the accessories were there to make things easier. That was fine. But I thought that the real progress would come from a more autonomous approach, one that did not require the use of accessories, but would require me to rely solely on my own body.

I have evolved! My understanding, interest and use of accessories has developed. Now I recognize that accessories are just tools. And it’s not just about blocks and reinforcements. Even a sticky mat is a support (although it is usually taken for granted, and most likely overused, if our goal is a really strong, resilient, and adaptable body).

Mechanics and tools

Over time, I have developed a better understanding of biomechanics, the science of exercise, and the principles of regression and progression. As I learned how our bodies adapt and respond to force, my considerations about the possibilities of an asana practice were transformed. I also understood the potential of accessories.

Biomechanically, there are many ways to modify the complexity of a movement. More variability in how we experience a movement improves our learning of that movement. And that ensures that the movement translates into other aspects of our lives. Accessories increase our options for regression and movement progression, deepening our levels of incarnation and cellular learning over time.

See also: Atrezzo for you: team to help you customize your practice

Moving forward

Accessories can be used to reverse our movements (make them easier) or to make our movements progress (make them more difficult). Some ways in which we can change the difficulty level of a posture or movement include:

  • Affecting its stability: Practicing Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2) with both feet on a sticky mat in front of placing the back foot on a folded blanket that can slide on the floor changes the stability of our base.
  • Opening or closing kinetic chains: In Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I), if we raise our arms while holding a block in our hands, this is a closed kinetic chain. It gives us more information about where our hands are in space than if we stand with our hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Decreasing or increasing intrinsic load: In Utkatasana (Chair Position), a thigh strap closes the kinetic chain around your legs and gives you the opportunity to press the strap, increasing the force of contraction on the outside of the hips. The same goes for the inside of your thighs when you press a block between your legs.
  • Decrease or increase range of motion: Accessories are often used to reduce the range of motion needed to stand up like Trikonasana (Triangle Position). A block “lifts” the ground so you don’t have to bend or get that far. In Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-legged Stick Position), you can increase the range of motion of your shoulders by placing your hands on blocks in Deck Posture and then lowering yourself to the floor.
Rocky Heron doing a reverse warrior with blocks.  He is wearing a tight-fitting T-shirt and black pants.  The blocks are green, it is in an industrial style building
(Photo: rocky heron)

Find accessories wherever you go

Just as there are many ways to use accessories in your practice, you have many options for using objects found in your environment as tools to improve your practice. I’ve traveled all over the world teaching yoga and I’ve had to be creative with accessories, as the accessory collection in each studio is different. (I’ve also had to be creative in my personal practice, as I don’t travel with a suitcase full of blocks and straps.) Here are some helpful substitutions:

  • Block: To replace a block I used books, paint cans, water bottles and even shoes. However, because they all have different shapes, they may not work for all cases where a block is needed. For this reason I recommend that each practitioner acquire 2 blocks for their practice at home.
  • Strap: Many items in the house can replace a leash – a belt, a towel, elastic bands, and even my dog ​​leash.
  • Reinforce: While it’s hard to find a good alternative to a good firm yoga stand, you can often settle for pillows, folded blankets, or even your rolled yoga mat. Once, as I was walking down the road, I filled a garbage bag full of my clothes to use as reinforcement for my restorative practice.

As you begin to see the world as a giant jungle gym, there are endless resources to use in your exploration of mobility and strength.

See also: No yoga accessories? No problem

Tools for evolution

As humans, we have always acquired new movement skills through our exploration and relationship with our environment. I believe that there is value for more internally focused practices, those that take us away from the world and foster a deeper awareness of our inner landscape.

But we exist in a physical world. The true resilience of body and spirit comes from our ability to explore life in both directions, the outside and the incarnate, and use what we experience for a more holistic understanding of who we are in the world. The way we use tools to help us evolve is critical to our progress as yogis and as humans.

4 practices that use accessories in a unique way

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore how to use accessories to improve your practice, whether it’s going backwards or advancing your movements.

Check out this practice now:

Slide to strength with this sequence (all you need is a blanket)

Here’s what comes next:

  • Stay with him! Use of heels to open shoulders and hips
  • Use straps to support your restorative postures
  • Video practice: The Vinyasa Block Party

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