Stretching: how to use yoga equipment to enhance your flexibility

Posted by for Strong Women

Yoga can be tricky enough when it’s just you and the mat. There’s foot placement, arm position, core engagement, breathwork and mindset to think about – all while trying to actually relax. So, if the thought of adding in extra pieces of kit makes you feel like throwing in the towel, don’t give up just yet. Using yoga equipment can help get you further into postures or remove some of the guesswork from your stretching, making the practice easier overall.  

And, the more we can stretch, the better the outcome. “Improving flexibility or range of movement has benefits for the body: slowing dehydration, lubricating joints, improving healing, generating better circulation and enhancing mobility,” says Keri Perkins, yoga teacher. “Yoga should be a healing practice so you should never be doing anything that harms or hurts the body, so overstretching or forcing your body into postures are a no go. This is why props are a great idea.”

She explains that using equipment in your practice can help in several ways, such as supporting you in a posture and making you more stable while maintaining the integrity of your spine.

With that in mind, we asked Keri to explain how and why to use some of the most popular yoga kit.

  • Yoga blocks

    Blocks can be used as a raised surface to reduce the intensity of a stretch, explains Keri, for example using it in a triangle pose as a raised surface if you can’t reach the floor. 

    “Something I learnt during my early practice is that binding in a seated twist with a hunched back is counterproductive. Instead, sit on a block to allow your body to naturally work into the pose and open up – it maintains form and integrity of the spine and feels much easier and accessible. With time you may not need the prop anymore,” Keri explains.

    Shop Cork Yoga Brick, £10.50

  • Yoga strap

    “I’d absolutely recommend for everyone to get a yoga belt or strap,” says Keri. “Yoga straps will increase range of motion as well as support with alignment and form, which can help you get into more challenging poses.”

    Straps can be used to move deeper into a stretch or to reach for body parts you wouldn’t normally be able to. For example, Strong Women editor Meriam Ahari uses her strap to intensify her hamstring stretches. While lying on the floor, she suggests wrapping the strap around the sole of one foot, then extending the same leg straight towards the ceiling. Flex the foot and pull the strap towards your chest to bring the straight leg closer towards your torso. Meriam then stretches her arm on the ground to the side of her body to open the leg and hips wide.

    “If you don’t have a strap, a dressing gown belt or resistance band will also do the trick,” says Keri. 

    Shop Yogikuti Cotton Yoga Belt, £20.34

  • Yoga wheel

    A yoga wheel feels amazing as it helps to decompress the spine and open up your chest after a long day of sitting. But it can also train your flexibility – making you more mobile through the back, shoulders and chest, which translates into the rest of your practice. 

    Plus, it builds stability and balance. Practicing plank and lateral lunge variations on the yoga wheel will make your core, glutes and legs stronger so that you fly through vinyasa flows. 

    “Rolling over a wheel can be useful as a massage for the body, relieving back and neck pain,” adds Keri. 

    Yoga Design Lab Yoga Wheel, £52

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Images: Getty

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