Designer labels aside, yoga props are still "spendy" when it comes down to it. An inexpensive yoga mat runs $10 but it will disintegrate with moderate usage in a month (leaving little foam particles all over you and your floor), and it's probably not eco-friendly. A yoga block is another $5, and you usually need two. A strap is another $5, and if you want one that will hold up to actual usage, and you aren't buying in bulk, the price tag doubles. A blanket? $20 minimum. Want a stylish Zafu meditation cushions? Those will set you back $50 or $500 depending on your interior decorating sense!
So just to get on your mat you could be out $50, even with cheap tools. You could just sit on a rug, but if you require ways to elevate your feet, extend your reach, or create better alignment, even "easy pose" isn't easy.
Back in my early days of super active yoga, I had a teacher that would start many diatribes against privileges with "Well, in IIIIIIIIIIndia..." as she would berate our need for drinking water "too soon" in class (she, a tall, lithe, white woman in pricey clothing, with nose piercings, a holistic vegan diet, and the temperament of a Bengal tiger). I do not mean to imply that using props in general is a privilege. Yes, one could consider the yoga wall (https://www.yogawall.com/), pelvic swing (https://www.yogawall.com/pelvic.html), and inversion devices (https://feetup.com/) privileged accoutrement. However, if you consider (as I do) yoga a holistic practice that can be used as a therapy for mind/body health, not just fancy exercise, and not just somethings for elite folks, then you might agree with me that investing in simply props like a block, a blanket, a sturdy chair, and a strap are certainly more fundamental for creating an accessible practice.
That being said, it's not always feasible to drop $50 for props. So here are some of my creative thoughts on either making your own props, or "5 minutes craft" style cheats to get the most out of what you may have around the house.
Not a Yoga Rapper, I find that having a second chair available for chair yoga (or a desk surface, or being close to wall) gives you a great advantage for creating pose variations. For example, if downward dog with arms up at a 45° angle is hard on your shoulders or causes your back to round, try putting the hands on back of the seat of chair in front of you instead (as you might do in a chair-supported standing class). Another option might to have your chair close to a wall, and use that surface as if it's a mat.
Two chairs also work wonderfully for side bends; place the second chair next to you, then one hand on that seat to support you (rather than trying to hold the side of the chair on which you are sitting).
Another application is two chairs for standing poses. Position the backs of the chairs facing one another, you standing between them. This gives two "handles" of gentle reassurance! Reminder that the chairs themselves can't do all the work and are only props, not orthopedic designated medical supports, so be careful and mindful.
A simple sturdy single step stool will substitute nicely to elevate the floor to be within reach for a foot, a hand, or the knees. If the surface is textures rubber and too hard for placing anything but a foot, try using a hand towel. Make sure the stool has non-skid feet. A short step-ladder might work as well.
Yoga straps are great for binding body parts together and help move arms and legs synchronously. The also distribute force better than, say, a rope. But in a pinch, a very long leather belt can work, though I prefer something made of fabric, like the belt from a robe. Also useful are those rubber/latex fitness bands. However, it's important no matter what type of strap you use, not to wrap the strap around your hand to tighten your grip; instead, reach further on the strap to prevent circulation risk.
Yoga blankets are wonderful because they are woven tightly and can be folded and rolled to create a various support surfaces. Equally versatile are large bath or beach towels. Pick up a couple at the good will (the less "fluffy" the better for support), and practice folding into different configuration to meet the shape of your body horizontally and vertically, and rolling to fit under your knees, along your spine, neck, etc. A small roll makes a great neck support for seated savasana.
I've seen foot rolling tools sell for $20 or more in novelty stores, but the easiest tools I've found for massaging those pesky plantar fascia are frozen 16.9oz water bottles. Just fill almost all the way (remember water expands when it freezes), make sure the cap is seated and tight, then freeze in an upright position. You can also use marbles, or smooth pebbles from your garden (or a bag of those cheap glass rocks from the 99 cent store for floral arrangements) in a bowl of warm or cool water to destress your feet.
You can use a cheap rolling pin to roll out tight muscles and fascia adhesions, but you can also make your own "foam roller" using a wood dowel and pool noodle. Cut a pool noodle to about 12" or 18", then a dowel to about 22" (about 10" longer so you have 5" handles). Slide the dowel down the center of the noodle. Cover the ends of the dowel in grip tape (or Duck Tape) and you have a quick cheap body massage tool.
A terrific application of an affordable nature was submitted by a student in my online chair yoga class. Many household chairs have seatbacks that are hard, and uncomfortable for holding during poses like modified plank, or even difficult for someone with wrist issues to grip. I have been using a folded blanket draped over the back, which is good cushioning but it does tend to slip.
Here's an inexpensive idea for you to try.
- Pick up a round (not textured) Styrofoam pool noodle. We have had thin ones at our dollar store for $1, and more durable ones at sporting good stores for $2.99. All of them have openings down the center.
- Measure the side-to-side length of the back of your chair, and cut the length of the pool noodle to fit.
- With a utility knife, slice down one half lengthwise of the noodle all the way down. Be careful not to cut all the way through and only go to the center.
- Pry the noodle open enough to slide the opening over the back of your chair.
- It should be a tight fit. If it doesn't slide on, you may need to cut a thin "pie wedge" piece out of the noodle to make the opening bigger.
- You can use duct tape to secure any cracks as the noodle wears, or buy a new noodle.
Let me know any hacks that you have, and send pictures of your creative use of props!