How to advance your Yoga Practice?

Surya Namaskar Yoga King
Surya Namaskar yoga King

When you first begin your yoga practice it’s tempting to aspire towards more advanced poses. Ironically, often the longer you practice yoga, the more you realise that the beauty is not in the deepest backbend or the most impressive arm balance. The most advanced practitioners aren’t always making the most Instagram-worthy shapes. It’s important to understand that yoga is not a competitive sport; there is no goal to the practice other than finding a sense of acceptance, stillness and spiritual curiosity.

However (yes, there’s a but!), there are sometimes moments on your yoga journey when you feel as though your body has reached a plateau. The next level of the yoga pose is so close, and yet feels so far away. There’s a sense that your body is holding on, gripping or refusing to let go. Sound familiar? By helping you find comfort and stability in a pose, props can move you to the next level! Here are three ways to use props to advance your yoga practice.

3 ways to use props to advance your yoga

1 – Backbend with a bolster

Place a bolster lengthways along with your yoga mat. Lie down on the bolster, keeping your buttocks on the floor so that the bolster rests at your lower back or a little higher. Letting the bolster rest a little higher up on the spine allows for greater expansion through the chest, preventing you from over-extending the lower back (which may already be quite flexible due to the natural curves of your spine). Take your arms by your sides with your palms facing up. If your neck needs some support, roll up a blanket to use as a small pillow. The higher you take your arms, the deeper the stretch. You may even like to reach your arms all the way above your head and take hold of opposite forearms. Stay for up to ten minutes for a deep but restful stretch through the chest and shoulders. Practicing this pose frequently will help to prepare your body for stronger backbends.

2 – Sun Salutations with a block

Work to enhance stability in your Sun Salutes and highlight the adductor muscles (that run down the inner thighs) by using a yoga block. This will help to work your deep core and glute muscles, inviting more stability and strength into all of your standing postures. Simply place a block in between your upper thighs (the thinnest way) as you flow through your Sun Salutes. Continue reading for instructions on Surya Namaskar A, or skip to the next point!

Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar A) instructions

Start standing at the top of your mat and squeeze the yoga block between your thighs.

  • As you inhale, reach your arms above your head in Urdhva Hastasana.
  • With an exhalation fold forward into Uttanasana.
  • Inhale as you look forward and lengthen your spine for a half way lift (Ardha Uttanasana).
  • As you exhale plant your hands flat and step back into Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana). Keep squeezing the block and notice how this pose feels a little different than usual.
  • With an exhalation either lower down to your belly or come to Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose).
  • As you inhale, lift your chest for Cobra (Bhujangasana) or Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).
  • Exhale into Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Breathe here as you continue to feel and squeeze the block.
  • Come high up onto your toes as you inhale, then exhale bend your knees, look forward and jump to the top of your mat.
  • With an inhalation lengthen your spine for half way lift and exhale to fold forward.
  • Inhale reach your arms above your head and come all the way to standing, and exhale bring your hands together at your heart.
  • Continue to squeeze the block as you feel the strength in your legs.

3 – Dancer’s Pose with a strap

Lord of the Dance Pose (Naturajasana) requires a strong foundation, stability, and flexibility – all of which can be supported with the use of a yoga strap.

  • Start by standing at the front of your mat.
  • Holding the yoga strap in your right hand, place your left hand on your left hip and shift your weight into your left leg.
  • Bend your right knee, bringing the right foot towards your buttocks, and loop your strap over the top of your right foot, holding both sides of the strap with your right hand.
  • Bend your right elbow as you bring your right hand towards your right shoulder, looping both ends of the strap over your shoulder.
  • From here, set your gaze and begin to reach your left arm overhead.
  • With both elbows bent, take hold of the strap behind you with both hands, kicking the right foot into the strap.
  • Lift both elbows to the sky with your biceps by your ears and your upper arm bones back.
  • Square your hips to the front of the mat as you continue to kick into the strap.
  • The longer the strap, the easier it will be, so if you’d like to deepen simply walk your hands further back along the strap. Stay for a few breaths then change sides.

Enjoy these yoga poses supported by yoga props regularly to find stability, strength, and expansion in your practice. Enjoy!

Read more about Yoga and how to enhance you using yoga props here.