It’s a new year, which means time for new challenges, goals, and growth! You’ve worn in your yoga mat, mastered warrior II, done more downdogs that you can count, and conquered crow pose. Now it’s time to take your practice to the next level.
One of the best ways to improve yourself this year is by adding some new props to your repertoire to enhance balance, strength, and flexibility. Check out these 4 fitness and yoga accessories that will have you looking back at 2018 with pride in how far you’ve come!
1. Yoga Wheel
One of the hottest yoga trends at the moment, the yoga wheel is an incredibly fun way to not only learn new poses, but to challenge your creativity! One of the beautiful aspects of yoga is that its shape and style is unique to each person and always adaptable for what works best for you. It’s about exploring your whole self, and a tool like the yoga wheel will help you think outside the box and consider new ways of expressing yourself through movement. Here are a few things to try to get you started:
Wheel Pose – lie back over the wheel with hands and feet on the ground, as you would in preparation for a backbend from bridge pose, and push-up from there. The added height will help you get up easier, and just lying on the wheel will improve flexibility in your spine so you can eventually perfect this pose without any props.
Headstand – from a kneeling position, place hands on the wheel directly in front of you. Come into dolphin pose, lower head to the ground, then kick up, using the wheel for support to get you into that headstand!
Peacock Pose – Get into a high plank position with the wheel underneath your shins, then walk hands into closer together and in toward your chest so wrists are under elbows, as in peacock pose. Bend elbows and shift your weight forward as you lower toward the ground, then lift one leg off of the wheel. As you get stronger, try to lift the second leg off of the wheel and hold.
2. Exercise Balance Pad
This thick, somewhat firm and cushy pad is a versatile tool to keep on hand for daily practices and yoga-enhancing exercises. The soft surface challenges your balance, making basic poses and exercises much harder. Since so many yoga poses require exceptional balance, this will benefit the rest of your practice as your core gets stronger and body awareness increases. It’s also great for putting under your knees or elbows for added support. Here are some ways to use it:
3. Grippy Yoga Gloves
Tree Pose – this single leg pose will become much harder on a balance pad. Get a better core and leg workout as your muscles work to stabilize you here.
King Pigeon Variations/Low Lunge – Variations of King Pigeon pose are excellent for stretching the hip flexors and opening up chest and shoulders. However, any low lunge position can be hard on the knees. Place your back knee on the pad for support so you can hold the stretch longer and improve balance.
In place of a block – Sometimes a block may be just a tad too tall, or too hard, for some positions. Use a Balance Pad for a seat cushion when meditating and sitting cross-legged, as a hand support in poses like triangle, or under tight hips during pigeon pose.
Whether your hands slide too much, or you travel frequently and can’t always pack a mat, Grippy Gloves are a must-have accessory for a stronger practice. These open-fingered, lightweight gloves are covered on the inside with small rubber dots to give you amazing grip and stability. They’re perfect for hot yoga or on carpet and hard floors when you don’t have a mat handy for your sun salutations.
4. Stability Exercise Ball
Tighten your core and improve flexibility with this multi-tasking yoga ball. This simple, inexpensive workout tool can be used as a desk chair, a back stretcher or a way to make crunches more challenging. It comes in three sizes (smaller for shorter users, bigger for taller. Here are a few exercises to try for strength and suppleness:
Ball Pass – Lie on your back with arms behind you and legs straight, with the ball between your hands. Lift legs and arms up and together, as if going into boat pose, then pass the ball in between your feet and extend back down to the floor. Repeat, this time taking the ball from between your feet and back to the start position.
Backbend – Sit on the ball with feet flat on the floor. Slowly walk forward, lowering your upper body as you go until head is supported on ball. Reach arms behind you, then push back and forth with your feet, finding a comfortable place to relax and open up your chest and shoulders.
Plank to Downward-Facing Dog – Get into a plank position with hands on the ground and feet on the ball. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly draw feet up and in towards chest, keeping legs straight until you’re in a downdog-like position. Repeat moving between the two, holding each position for 2-5 seconds.
Implementing any of these props will expand your yoga practice and make it more fun, while improving your overall strength and mobility. Give them a shot this year and leave a comment to let us know how they help you to improve!
Certified Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach
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