nuts and bolts, props

Setting up your home yoga space

It’s not always possible to have a dedicated yoga space. If you can do it, though, great! It might be a hallway, or a corner of your bedroom. Even in a limited space, try to keep your mat visible as a reminder that you’re trying for daily practice.

Freddie has no respect for the yoga mat.

I usually practice in our family room where I can keep a mat unrolled with a little stack of blankets. When I see it, I remember what I am supposed to do. It’s just a bit tricky to keep the dogs from taking it over.

  • Here are some ideas for props you can find around the house.
  • Blankets – If you have a firm wool blanket, you can use that. It’s likely to be bigger than the normal yoga blankets, but you can fold it in numerous different ways to meet your needs. Modern (non-wool) blankets tend to be too squishy for yoga. Big towels work very nicely, because they can create a firm base for, say, shoulder stand.
  • Blocks – Well, bricks. Really. Do you have any bricks outside? Clean them off and wrap them in dishtowels to make them easier to handle. For poses where you need a block that you won’t be putting weight on, you can use tissue boxes, preferably full. Or take some books you know you’ll never read and wrap them in duct tape.
  • Straps – Bathrobe ties, dishtowels, single bed sheets folded lengthways, martial arts belts from when your kid took tae kwon do, and many other items will work nicely, depending on what you need them for. Generally, they should be 6-8 feet long. Don’t use men’s ties – they are cut on the bias and are too stretchy to use.
  • Bolsters – Got an old quilt? Roll it up into a bolster and tie it together. You can do the same with several bath towels. Sofa and chair cushions are good in some cases.
  • Chairs – Best case would be to get a folding chair that you don’t care about and beat the back of it out. But try using your dining room chairs, or a footstool.
  • Look around for big things or architectural features of your house. Can you use your countertops? Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (backbend over a chair) over the arm of your sofa? Uttanasana (standing forward bend) with your hands on the bottom step of the staircase? I have a half-wall that is a good place to do hip stretches. A hallway can be used for walking up the wall into a handstand.
props

New sling

Upside down version 1
Upside down version 1

upsidedown02
Upside down version 2

I got a new yoga sling! I’ve been wanting to have one that I could leave hanging up.  Ever since we moved into this house I’ve been irked with how difficult it has been to attach my old one. The contractor didn’t ever get around to going to the Yoga Center to look at how to do the rope wall, and so the way he did the attachment really doesn’t work. So I bought a new sling that is designed to hang from the ceiling rather than from the wall, and my husband made a cherry beam to hang it from. It’s not against my rope wall, but the spot is slightly better because it’s out of the way.

Now I’ve tried three different kinds of yoga slings.

  • The Yoga Center has what Jill referred to as the Cadillac.  I can’t remember where it came from, but it’s very cushy, has numerous ways it can be hung, and includes a sort of belt that allows you to hang with your legs vertical and straight. It’s nice, but I don’t really like all the extra straps.
  • My old sling came from Tools for Yoga.  It’s pretty basic, and it has served me very well.  I am going to continue to take it with me to the Yoga Center.  I don’t do headstand, due to disappearing disks in my neck, so I hang upside down instead. The only thing I don’t like about it is that adjustment requires re-knotting the ropes, which can’t be done quickly or easily.  It’s currently adjusted to work fine and dandy on the hooks at the Yoga Center.
  • The new sling came from Yoga Props. It’s cushier than the old one, and the adjustments are easier to make.  Having it hanging from the ceiling rather than the wall allows for lots more variation in how you use it.  I’m very happy with it, and I look forward to playing with it more.

These photos are of my friend Dana. Ack!  I see now that I need to adjust the straps so that the cushioned part is even.

By the way, a yoga belt fastened tightly around the sling at your hips (or a dowel between you and the straps) holds you in enough that you can straighten your legs.  No need for additional special equipment.

props, self-talk

Using the wall

Sometimes I use the wall when doing a) standing poses and b) balancing poses.  I think the wall is a wonderful prop, but not if you use it all the time.

Examples of times to use the wall:

  • Some early morning and I feel just on the edge of dizzy.  Often if I use the wall for the first time through the pose, then I gain some stability and move away from the wall.
  • When I was sick last year I gave myself permission to use the wall all the time.  My joints were too immobile for me to steady myself.
  • If I want to work on some particular aspect of a pose where I don’t want to worry about falling over, I’ll do it at the wall. This works well for me for Parsvottanasana (intense side stretch) and Virabhadrasana I, where I can’t get my heel to the ground.

I have to say, though, that I always think about it in a judgmental way and have to have a little conversation with myself about it.

“You are such a baby, wussing out and going to the wall.”
“I have good reasons today.  I want to get the big stretch of Ardha Chandrasana without worrying about falling over.”
“Well, OK for this time, but don’t get dependent on it.”
“I won’t, I promise.”

And if I DID need to do it all the time, it wouldn’t make me a bad person.

Boy, this post sure falls into the self-talk category!

Parsvottanasana
Parsvottanasana

Virabhadrasana I
Virabhadrasana I

Ardha Chandrasana
Ardha Chandrasana

props

Little props

Sometimes I’m too lazy or forgetful to get things out of my yoga cabinet when I’m setting up for practice.  So I am uncomfortable in some basic poses in a naggy way.  
When I do remember, I’m inordinately pleased with how much better I feel in Virasana (hero) when I roll washcloths up behind my knees, and how much more comfortable I am in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) with my elbows strapped.  It’s more than feeling better, though.  Those props improve my alignment and stability, and help me get a greater benefit from the pose.

(My husband is a furniture builder.  He made my yoga cabinet for sale several years ago.  It didn’t sell, and I appropriated it for yoga props.  I love it.  He’ll never get it away from me now.)

Yoga cabinet
Yoga cabinet

nuts and bolts, props

Today’s props

I CAN practice yoga without props, but why would I?  They make many poses much more beneficial for me.  Today I used, not including the mat:

  • Eight-foot strap, to strap my elbows in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog), to hang onto my foot in Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana (hand-to-foot) I and II, to hold between my hands in Gomukhasana, and to strap up my feet and hips in Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining bound angle)
  • Blankets, one flat on the mat in seated poses to protect my bony ankles, several under me in a seated twist I can’t remember the name of but possible a variation of Ardha Matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes, no, I don’t know why), under my block to raise it just a bit in Virasana (hero), and under my head in Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining bound angle).
  • Blocks, to help me reach the floor in Trikonasana (triangle) and Ardha Chandrasana (half moon), under my hips in Virasana (hero), and on the arm of a chair as a place to put my foot in Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana (hand-to-foot) I and II.
  • Chair, see above.
  • Wall, for wall dog.
  • Bolster, under me in Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining bound angle).
  • Ropes, to do a supported version of Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog).  I don’t actually have my ropes adjusted properly, and it drives me nuts.  The knots are very tight, and I can’t undo them myself, so I’ve just worked around the ones that are too short and the ones that are too long.  Really, I should fix them once and for all.  They’ve been wrong since we moved into this house three years ago.

Adho Mukha Svanasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana I
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana I

tthita Hasta Padangusthasana II
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana II

Supta Baddha Konasana

Virasana
Virasana

Ardha Matsyendrasana I
Ardha Matsyendrasana I

Utthita Trikonasana
Utthita Trikonasana

Ardha Chandrasana
Ardha Chandrasana