The published version of the "Yoga Practice Journal" can be purchased direct from the publisher or ordered through your local bookshop.

Excerpt from "Yoga Practice Journal"
2005 by Witold Fitz-Simon

Props can make the difference between doing a pose safely or not at all. Here are some things to look at in a prop and some suggestions of household items you can use to approximate them. Bear in mind that the first props used by B.K.S. Iyengar, the pioneer of prop use in yoga poses, were bricks from a building site and leather belts.

The Yoga mat is perhaps the most fundamental of yoga props. It is essential for providing traction under the feet when doing standing poses and general cushioning under the body for floor work.

Mats come in all sorts of colors and textures. Some provide more traction than others. If your mat is slippery when you first get it, run it through the washing machine a couple of times to break the surface down a little. If you tend to sweat a lot, then many yoga prop suppliers sell cotton dhurries, a type of Indian rug that provides excellent grip when wet.

If your mat starts to lose its traction and begins to smell from long use, you can clean it by running it through the washing machine. Use a gentle cycle with cold water and take the mat out before the spin cycle if possible. You probably will not need to use detergent, but if the mat is heavily soiled, then use a very small amount. Either drip dry or run the mat through the dryer at VERY low heat.

If you do not have a mat, you can provide additional support in standing poses by putting either foot against a wall. A wall is also useful for providing leverage in twisting actions and support in balancing poses.

Yoga blocks come in many shapes and sizes and are made of many materials. Wooden blocks are harder and sturdier, but are often more expensive. If you opt for purchasing a foam block, make sure that it is made of dense foam. The lighter foam blocks often get compressed over time and shrink irregularly, which makes them lose their shape and become next to useless.

Blocks are used in standing poses when you are unable to safely bring your hand to the floor. For this reason, a pair of blocks is often more convenient than a single block, one for each side. Blocks are extremely versatile. They can be used for sitting on, lying back over, resting limbs on and more.

A great alternative to blocks are books. If you have old phone books hanging around, save them and tape them up with packing or gaffer’s tape so they keep their shape as a very inexpensive alternative.

Any sturdy blanket is suitable, though the most commonly used are a Mexican cotton/acetone blend. Blankets are essential to use under the shoulders in Shoulder Stand and Halasana (Plough Pose) to protect the neck. Useful also to support the legs and trunk in restorative poses and pranayama.

When the hamstrings are tight, the arms are often not long enough to reach the feet. This is a problem in poses where you have to grab your toes, such as forward bends. Instead of bending the legs, you can loop the belt around the feet. Belts can also be used to bind the legs together in restorative poses such as Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose).

Insted of a yoga belt you can use an old neck-tie, a dress belt or even the belt from an old bathrobe.

A bolster is essential for restorative work. Yoga bolsters are generallly 10” in diameter by around 30” long and are filled with cotton batting. Large and sturdy, they are perfect for reclined poses, both prone and supine. They often come with removable covers which make them easy to keep clean.

If you do not have a bolster you can use two or three blankets as a substitute. Either fold them and stack them up to the desired dimensions, or roll them up and bind them with one or two belts if you prefer tubular proportions. Alternately, firm pillows can sometimes be effective.

The classic yoga chair is a simple metal folding chair with the back panel knocked out, although any sturdy chair with a hard back can be used to greater or lesser effect. Shoulder Stand on the chair is a safer (for the neck) and more accessible restorative variation. You will also be able to sit with your legs through the chair and do back bends, such as Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose).

These metal chairs can be purchased fairly cheaply. You can either knock the back panel out yourself, which will be very noisy, or you might be able to find a local hardware store that will do the work for you. Many yoga prop suppliers have pre-modified chairs available.
Head Wrap

The head wrap is a soft crepe bandage that can be used to wrap the brow and eyes to release tension in the head and draw the senses inwards. Excellent for restorative work, pranayama and meditation.
Eye Pillow

A small bag usually filled with seeds. Used to block out light and provide gentle pressure on the eyes to release tension in restorative poses.

The published version of the "Yoga Practice Journal" can be purchased direct from the publisher or ordered through your local bookshop.