Your Students Won’t Use Yoga Props? Try This.

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I can still recall my first yoga class. I sheepishly walked into the room, unrolled my mat in the back row, and tried not to attract any attention until class began. On the far right side of the room, there was a tower of yoga props stacked against the wall. I watched as students went over and grabbed one or sometimes two cork blocks and placed them beside their mats. Some students proceeded to lay down on top of them while they waited for class to begin. I remember feeling too shy to get up and get any for myself.

A few weeks later, feeling more confident, I began to grab a block on the way to my place in the back. But I never used it. Some teachers would offhandedly mention during class, “If you need a block here, grab it.” I recall wondering, how do you know if you need a block? Does using a block mean I’m not good enough? Will everyone know I’m new? Does it make it harder or easier? I couldn’t figure it out.

Sometimes when I looked for my blocks to give them a try, they were out of reach, stacked at the back of my mat where I had left them at the beginning of class. I either couldn’t grab them or, by the time I did, we had moved on to a different pose. Using blocks never felt intuitive for me. Eventually, I stopped grabbing them before class.

It wasn’t until I took classes with a teacher who intentionally integrated props into their sequences that I began to understand how to use them for help with alignment, strength, and mobility. Lately, I never walk into class without a handful of props. And, as a yoga instructor, I never teach without cueing them.

For me, it’s an accessibility thing. I know that it feels better for a lot of bodies to use props in certain postures, and I want students to feel like there are always options available that work for them. I also know how confusing props can initially seem.

8 Ways to Persuade Students to Use Yoga Props

I encourage students in every class I teach to explore and take the time to play with props because I know just how transformative they can be for their practice. But it can be tricky to get students past the notion that blocks are unnecessary or hard to use. Or that using them means you’re doing something incorrectly or taking an easy way out. Using a prop doesn’t necessarily mean a student needs an assist or help in a posture—there are ways to use a prop to provide feedback that helps you strengthen or experience a different alignment in a pose.

Here are the tips and tricks I rely on to encourage students to benefit from props.

1. Set Up Everyone With the Same Props

In almost any yoga class, it can be beneficial for students to have two blocks within reach. If they’ll be reaching behind their backs to bind their hands in Humble Warrior or grab their foot in Dancer’s Pose, make sure everyone also has a strap.

I usually start class by saying, “Everyone will need two blocks for practice. If you don’t have any, give me a little wave and I’ll bring some over to you.” From here, if I notice someone doesn’t have any and doesn’t give me a signal, I’ll bring some over and place them next to them anyways. Even if students never touch them, they have access to them.

Another strategy that works well in a smaller class setting is to place props at equal distances apart in the room to mark where students should set up their mats. Lots of studios have tape or markers on the floor designating where students should set up, so place the props right next to the markers. By setting everyone up with the same props before they even enter the room, you even the playing field, and in many ways, empower your students to take charge of their own practice.

2. Cue the Damn Props!

Something one of my teachers said to me during my yoga teacher training that I’ll never forget is “Cue the damn props!” You need to actually cue students when to reach for their props and how to use them.

Blocks lift the floor to the needed level. (Photo: Ellie Sheppard)

You also need to cue the prop setup before students need them so they aren’t left searching for them. For example, if I’m teaching a sequence that includes entering Pyramid Pose, a posture in which folks who experience tight hamstrings struggle to get their hands to the floor, I will first ask students to set their blocks on the highest height on either side of the mat. Then I will cue students to move through Downward Dog, Lunge, and whatever else is in the sequence. When they enter Pyramid Pose, I’lll say “Now, reach for your blocks—they’re right there—and rest your hands on them.”

You also need to allow time for students to figure out setting up the props for themselves. I learned from my own experience as a student that it can be discouraging to finally set up the blocks, only to have the sequence move along quickly.

Students standing on mats practicing a pose with yoga props, including a strap.
A strap essentially extends the arm in certain yoga poses—don’t forget to explain that to students. (Photo: Ellie Sheppard)

The same strategy applies for getting students to use their straps. If we’re going into Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, I will cue students to unravel their straps (get that clunky buckle noise out of the way) and place it on the side of their mat before class. This eliminates two things that often happen: Either a student reaches for their strap and it isn’t there so they don’t bother to stop and get it. Or they reach for their strap, which is too far away, so they lose their alignment and have to start over.

3. Explain Why The Prop is Needed

Make certain to share with students not only how to use a prop but a quick explanation as to why the prop is being used.

Yoga students on a mat with yoga props or blocks beneath their hands while bending forward
Don’t be so focused on explaining how to use a prop that you forget to also mention why it can benefit students’ body as well as their practice. (Photo: Ellie Sheppard)

For example, if we’re reaching for our toes in a posture like Dancer Pose, I’ll remind students to see the yoga strap as an extension of their arms to help bridge the gap from their hands to their toes. Similarly, if blocks are being used to bring the ground closer to the students, such as beneath the hands in a Standing Forward Bend, I’ll explain that lifting the ground to meet them rather than reaching can alleviate strain in the back body, including the hamstrings and lower back.

When you educate students about the props, they tend to feel encouraged and empowered to use them in other classes.

4. Don’t Talk Down to Props

I cringe whenever I hear a teacher say “Use a block if you have to” or “If you can’t, use a block.” To me, by framing prop use this way, you’re establishing a class hierarchy. In other words, some of you are so good that you won’t need a block, and some of you aren’t good enough so you’re going to need a prop.

Any time I hear a teacher referencing a block as something you might need, I observe fewer people reach for them. I’m sure most of us are familiar with that little voice in our heads telling us to be better and stronger and therefore we might (falsely) think, “I don’t need a block.”

Instead, I like to say things like, “Try reaching for your block here. Even if you can touch the ground, you might be surprised how the block changes the experience.”

5. Give Students “Adjustments” With Props

It’s been my experience that even though I’m consistently cueing the use of props, some students still won’t reach for them. Maybe they’re newer students and too focused on keeping up. Or maybe they just haven’t had that aha moment that shows them how great a prop can be.

A yoga student on the mat and a teacher putting a yoga prop, a strap, in the student's hand
Help students understand how to use straps through showing them, not just telling them. (Photo: Ellie Sheppard)

When walking around the class, I bring yoga props with me by keeping a strap draped around my shoulders and a block in hand. This way, if I notice a student who would benefit from the use of a prop, I can quickly put it in place for them. By taking this approach, I can discreetly pass someone a strap or block without drawing attention to them and assist in guiding them into the posture.

6. Practice What You Preach

Before class begins, I always set up my mat up in the front of the room with at least two blocks on it. This is a subtle cue to students to grab a pair of blocks. I also make sure to practice what I preach. And when demoing at the front of the room, I regularly reach for my props.

7. Get Creative

Not only do yoga props help make the poses more accessible and coax students into finding alignment, they also bring an element of creativity to your classes. Depending on the class, I like to throw in the addition of blocks for strengthening exercises.

Woman lying prone on a yoga mat with blocks beneath her shoulders.
Engage your students’ curiosity through lesser-known uses for yoga props, such as beneath the front shoulders in Locust Pose. (Photo: Ellie Sheppard)

For example, Locust Pose with your palms up with the blocks resting on your palms. That little bit of weight can make the pose more challenging.

Woman on a yoga mat in Warrior 2 pose balancing blocks on her outstretched arms as a strengthening pose
Keep students surprised with unexpected strengthening exercises with yoga props, such as flipping the palms up and balancing blocks on them during Warrior 2. (Photo: Ellie Sheppard)

Even just holding blocks while in Warrior 2 can encourage students to keep their shoulders down away from their ears.

Women on yoga mats balancing blocks on their hands as they make circles around their heads
Engage your students’ curiosity by asking them to do the unexpected. That can be any of many things, including practicing making overhead circles with blocks balanced on the palms. (Photo: Ellie Sheppard)

You can also use the blocks for mobility exercises. I love to teach Tea Cups, a shoulder mobility exercise. In this exercise, you hold a block out on your palm as if you were a server at a restaurant. While keeping the block balanced—try not to grip onto the edges of the block—slowly bring the block overhead. Your arm will naturally twist from the rotator cuff of your shoulder to keep the block upright. Once you get the hang of it, you can have fun with it and try to bring the block back down and around any way your shoulder will allow.

Woman in Child's Pose with support beneath her chest in the form of a bolster resting on a block
Props can create a surprising depth of ease and comfort for students in longheld, supported postures such as Child’s Pose. (Photo: Ellie Sheppard)

And there’s always ways to incorporate yoga props into more restorative poses. A bolster beneath the chest in Child’s Pose or slid beneath the knees in Savasana can help students become more comfortable than they ever could have imagined being while lying on the floor.

8. Give It Time

When you’re consistent and intentional in helping students understand the use of yoga props, they will catch on. Your students will remember if they didn’t ask for blocks but you placed them next to their mat anyway. They will remember if you cued a strap in a surprising way. They will remember if a bolster made a posture feel better.

Good things take time. I always think back to a student in my classes who was very resistant to props when we began practicing together. A few months later, I walked in to teach and, when the student noticed I didn’t have any blocks on my mat yet, she went and got me some. It was a great full circle moment for me as a teacher knowing that she now understood the value and benefit of having props in class.

About Our Contributor

Ellie Sheppard (she/her) is a yoga teacher based in Ottawa, Ontario, with a passion for creating safe, welcoming yoga classes for all bodies and experience levels. Coming from a background in dance, Ellie was first drawn to yoga as a way to integrate movement and creativity back into her life with a mix of strength, stability, and mobility for injury prevention. Ellie is a firm believer that there is no full expression of any yoga pose—there is only your expression of the pose. Her mission as a teacher is to encourage students to explore their own expression of a pose so it feels good and welcome in each individual body. Outside of yoga, you might find Ellie falling off her paddleboard, tap dancing, and spending time at local coffee shops, breweries, and vineyards.


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