Once you have selected a high-quality yoga mat, you may be wondering which accessories or yoga props will help you improve and deepen your yoga practice. We cover the five most important yoga accessories: bolsters, straps, blocks, mat bags, and mat cleaners.
Yoga bolsters provide extra support in difficult poses. They are basically stuffed cushions or rolls, and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. A single bolster may be used in a variety of ways, supporting the head and neck in one pose, supporting the back in another, and stretching the abdomen yet another pose. Bolsters are commonly used in the “restorative” varieties of yoga, such as Kripalu. Many bolster options are available, including rectangular and round shapes, cotton, organic cotton, or hemp covers, and foam or organic cotton filling.
Yoga straps, also called yoga belts, are useful for developing flexibility. They can help beginners to transition into certain poses that would not otherwise be possible. One common use is a hamstring stretch, in which the yoga strap is hooked around the foot while the leg is held straight. They can also assist in bound poses such as cow face, or Gomukhasana, if your hands are not able to naturally clasp each other. Yoga straps are commonly available in materials such as nylon and hemp, and often have buckles on the end to aid in storage and transportation.
Yoga blocks are props to help improve your alignment and make you more comfortable during practice. They can be made of a variety of materials, such as eco-friendly cork and bamboo, or more conventional foam. Blocks are often used during standing poses in which one hand is on the floor, and can be great transitional aids while you develop your flexibility. Some poses also make use of sitting on a yoga block. Yoga blocks are often sold individually, but we recommend buying two for the most versatility.
Mat bags are useful for convenience and helping to protect your mat and yoga accessories. Depending on how much you carry back and forth to class, you may want a small mat bag that is sized slightly larger than your mat, or a larger, duffel-style mat bag that can carry extra supplies: yoga blocks, towels, water bottles, extra clothing, etc. Some people choose to make their own yoga mat bag out of silk or other materials – there are many great resources online that give instructions on how to do so. Ready-to-buy yoga mat bags are made out of materials such as nylon, cotton, organic cotton, or hemp.
Yoga mat cleaners are also very important. After regular practice, a yoga mat can become a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, mold, and mildew. According to the New York Times, some dermatologists and podiatrists say that in the past two years or so, they have noticed a rise in the number of skin infections in their patients who practice yoga and use public mats. You do not need to use harmful chemicals to clean and sterilize your mat, however. There are some great natural choices available, using natural oils and plant extracts that thoroughly clean your mat. You can use a mat cleaning solution that you put in your washing machine, yoga mat cleaning wipes, or cleaning sprays that can be wiped down with a towel.