According to an article written by the The Good Body in July of 2018 Americans spend around 16 billion dollars a year on yoga classes, clothing, equipment, and accessories. This number jumps to 80 billion when you look worldwide, and other sources actually show this number to be much higher.
I can safely and confidently say that I’ve contributed to that amount. I pay each month for a subscription to have yoga classes readily available on my phone, I subscribe to magazines, I attend specialty classes and workshops at various studios, and my current yoga prop inventory includes:
10 yoga mats
8 yoga blocks
4 straps + a set of straps in varying sizes
3 bolsters of different sizes
1 foam roller
1 yoga wheel
2 mat towels
2 hand towels
4 sets of/myofascial release balls of varying sizes
So what’s with all the hype? People cite all sorts of reasons for practicing yoga and contributing to this industry. Forbes (2016) provides research from a study conducted by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal that shows some of the reasons people try yoga; they include: flexibility, stress relief, general fitness, overall health, and physical fitness. Over 85% of survey respondents reported feeling a sense of mental clarity from the practice and stated that is was a form of meditation. If you do a quick online search of the benefits of yoga, you’ll find a number of articles citing the many benefits of yoga. Harvard Health Publishing (2015) states that yoga can help those who practice to be more aware of their bodies and be less critical of them, that it helps with becoming a mindful eater, it can help with weight loss as it can help you to be more sensitive to hunger cues, and that it has a positive effect on cardiovascular risk factors.
Simply put: the hype and benefits are real, and if you’ve practiced it before, you’re probably pretty well aware of some of them. But is all of this spending on props really necessary? Maybe, maybe not…
Why do I personally buy into the prop and accessory hype? No clue, but I have some ideas.
1. I like yoga
2. I’m a yoga teacher
3. Yoga brands are really good at advertising
4. I think I need it, because I’ve been told I do
As a teacher I am definitely putting these props to good use. But I also use them very consistently as a yoga practitioner too. One thing to keep in mind is that props aren’t for those who can’t do the “full pose”. Mainly because the “full pose” doesn’t really exist. We are all so unique in our bodies and goals, and props can assist us with things like deepening our practice and changing the experience to allow us to feel the poses in new and different ways. Props also allow us to find balance and stability, strength, coordination and flexibility. They can also be extremely beneficial in case of injury as they allow us to continue to get on our mats and access our poses in a safe way (in case of injury, please speak with your doctor before starting or continuing a yoga practice).
Props can be hugely beneficial to your body and your practice. There are a ton of different props out there, with every brand usually having a couple different options of each in terms of style, material used, color, etc. Here are a few examples of some of the most common props and how they can help in our practice:
I 100% encourage the use of props, no matter what style of yoga you are practicing. Many studios provide some sort of prop, usually blocks and straps. I have come across a few studios that provide more and in my experience, it’s only been on rare occasion that there haven’t been any at all.
Don’t let the idea of not having yoga specific branded props stop you from getting creative and using them in your practice. If you are practicing at home and you don’t want to purchase these things, there are so many things around the house that can work:
If you are interested in or in the market to buy props, remember, there are a lot of options out there, both in terms of brands and in terms of materials used and styles. Here are some of my favorite props to use:
So the point? Props are fantastic. But you don’t have to buy into the yoga hype or buy the marketed props to practice or to use props in your practice. We are lucky to have access to free yoga videos online and many different items around the house that can be used for support. Looking to deepen your backbends and open your heart a bit more? Hello PVC pipe do-it-yourself yoga wheel… You can always start with items around the house and go from there. Ready to jump right in and stock up on all the things like I did? Go for it. To each his (or her) own; you have to do what works for and is right for you. Either way I encourage you to use them.