Yoga tools that raise your game

June 13, 2018 Providence Health Team

Yoga tools can help people safely achieve correct yoga poses.

The yoga wheel helps improve flexibility, strength, and balance.

A yoga trapeze can help reverse adverse effects of sitting and rounding shoulders.

Yoga is a body of physical, mental and spiritual practices known for improving balance, flexibility, and strength. Yoga is also effective for alleviating pain associated with aging and symptoms of menopause. Yoga combines breath control, simple meditation and specific body postures that promote health and decrease stress. To enhance their yoga practice, many people use tools to achieve correct poses and avoid injury while building strength, flexibility and balance.

What are the most popular yoga tools and how do they work?
Yoga tools serve two primary purposes: they help those who are new to yoga safely practice their poses and they help more experienced students achieve a deeper practice with more intense poses. Here are some of the most common yoga tools and how each can help benefit your yoga practice:

Exercise or stability balls


When used in conjunction with certain yoga poses, a stability ball can help improve core strength and balance as well as provide sufficient support for more difficult backbend or arm balance poses. For example, the forearm balance is a challenging pose that requires you to hold your position while balancing on your forearm, hip, and legs. To begin, rest your right forearm on your mat and your right hip on the exercise ball. Your legs should be extended out and stacked on top of one another. From there you will slowly lift your left leg and extend your left arm toward the sky. Take three deep breaths and repeat on the other side to achieve maximum benefit from this upper body and core strength exercise.

Blocks


Yoga blocks are effective tools for helping you reach the correct pose, even if you can’t achieve everything necessary due to limitations in flexibility. For example, a yoga block can offer support in certain poses that put a lot of strain on the hips, like the Pigeon Pose or Krounchasana Pose, pictured. Placing a block directly under the sit bone helps encourage the pelvis into a forward tilt and brings the body into proper alignment. Yoga blocks are also a great way to increase the intensity of your upper body-intensive poses, like Downward Dog or Chaturanga.

Trapeze

The yoga trapeze, used most often in inversion yoga, goes by many names including swing, sling, or inversion tool. A yoga trapeze is a swing-like tool that allows you to hang in many different poses, increase your core strength and stability as well as reduce chronic lower back pain. A yoga trapeze is the most natural form of inversion therapy; a therapy that has been proven to increase flexibility, relieve muscle aches, back pain and raise energy levels. Hanging upside-down helps lengthen and open the space between each spinal vertebrae, which are typically compressed as a result of our culture of sitting for prolonged periods of time each day.

Straps

(screenshot courtesy BrettLarkinYoga)

Yoga straps are particularly useful for those with limited flexibility because they help achieve correct poses and form good habits. The yoga strap helps provide tension because it gives you something to hold on to while doing things like hamstring stretches. Yoga straps are also quite useful in supporting restorative poses, like the Goddess Pose. The Goddess pose lengthens the lower back and helps the legs and feet more fully relax. First, make a large, loose strap then assume the Goddess pose. Take the loop behind your lower back but above your knees and place the other side of the loop below your feet. Next, tighten the strap until your lower back is tractioning slightly forward, lie back and relax.

Wheels


The yoga wheel is a new must-have product that helps open the front of the body, achieve advanced yoga poses and roll out the spine. It also helps reverse the adverse effects of our sitting culture, which rounds the shoulders forward. Many yogis use the yoga wheel to increase flexibility, challenge and strengthen their balance, aid in basic hamstring stretches and find a deeper variation of Paschimottansana, or the seated forward bend. The Paschimottansana starts in a seated position with both legs extended in front of you, just far enough apart to allow the yoga wheel to sit snugly between the thighs. Next, you lean forward and place your forehead on the wheel, just between the eyebrows and gently roll the wheel toward you. The yoga wheel allows you to hold the position for longer periods of time and achieve a deeper opening along the back.

It’s important to talk with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program or routine. This is particularly true if you have chronic back pain, neck pain or shoulder pain. Find a physician near you in our provider directory.

Interested in giving yoga a try? Here are 7 reasons you should roll out a mat and get started. Or try these gentle chair yoga poses.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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