One of the great things about the advent of yoga props is the myriad of ways that they can be used. We’re often taught that blankets can provide cushion and support in restorative postures, or help pad the knee or spine in poses that contact the mat. Yet, what about thinking beyond padding and getting creative? The humble blanket offers a host of ways to get curious about dynamic movements (rather than static poses) and get sliding off the mat in new and challenging ways.
Pulling postures are all movements that use the strength of the body to pull the body in space. Traditional yoga asana does not often target this muscle groups, and a few of these poses in succession will change your change and proprioception in new ways!
-Bodysurfing: Start on your belly on a blanket, with your head to knees on the blanket atop a sliding surface. Pull your arms overhead to propel your body in space while also strengthening often missed muscles!
-Walk the plank (or megaplank!): Challenge your proprioception and skills by making plank (or megaplank) a more dynamic pose, with your feet on the blanket and your arms propelling you forward. See if you can walk your plank forward, to the side, and all around.
Moving in Place
These movements combine reciprocal actions to keep the body moving fluidly in one position.
–Sidewinder (and sidebending savasana): In this video, Jill Miller shows the classic YTU® pose of sidewinder to strengthen your lateral core muscles and back muscles, all while having fun.
Replacing a strap with a rolled or folded blanket increases the difficulty of the pose, but gives a good stepping stone to increasing strength and challenge.
–Shoulder Flossing with a blanket: In this video, YTU teacher Alexandra Ellis teaches the basics of shoulder flossing with a strap. Kick it up a notch by using a rolled blanket instead of a strap!
Whether you are a traditional yoga instructor or a Yoga Tune Up® instructor, it’s good to get creative and think outside the box(ana). How can you challenge your students and yourself in new ways with props you know and love?
Come back on Friday for suggestions for novel uses of the yoga block!
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I often use a blanket as a prop when teaching Yin Yoga. And while some of these movements may not be very “yin,” I think they could help my students identify and isolate some of the muscles we’re stretching in yin poses.
These are awesome ideas for using props to accentuate different muscle groups that the aren’t often felt in the basic versions. I especially love shoulder flossing with a blanket. It’s as huge forearm strengthener for me!
Such great ideas to use the props that you already have in your studio. Who knew that it is so easy to use restorative props to strengthen your muscles.
thank you Kayleigh – the postures you cover here totally revealed a huge body blind spot! I can’t wait to try walking the mega-plank … after I can plank/megaplank with more strength and better form.
Blanket exercises are the best! My favorite is cobra swims on the blanket — I give this to my students who hate backbends and suddenly they love them.
Thanks for the post, very effective on the shoulder indeed but love the shoulder flossing with straps, you can feel the hear and freedom when you’re done.
I love how yoga tune up uses props to help find the right muscles to engage! Those Matador circles were very hard the first time! You would have though, it looks like nothing at all when you look at it!
Pulling postures have become some of my favorites to incorporate into classes as well as into my own practice. I recently was made away of a big body blind spot of mine, that I was seriously overstretching my hips in more traditional vinyasa practices. Abductor/Adductor slides have been an amazing eye opener and have shined a light on my blind spots, those muscles were much weaker than I thought and the first time I tried a slide with the blanket, I barely moved anywhere! I’m finding the same thing with my students. The awareness is the first step to building a safer practice and identifying those blind spots. Thank you for a great post with lots of great ideas for leveling up exercises using the blanket as well!
Shoulder flossing with a blanket! Wowsers. Healing some junk in my shoulder now but something to try in the future.
Today I tried the body surfing posture movement in YTU for the first time. It was my favorite pose of the day – I thought it was fun to do! The muscle groups I felt engaged while doing this pulling dynamic movement, I don’t think I have ever used them in a regular yoga practice. However, these same muscle groups I do often use and engage them when weight lifting. I am going to add body surfing to my list of warm-up exercises.
Tried out the “body surfing” today in YTU training! I’ve never done that before, and when it was mentioned that you might need to crawl to the phone one day in an emergency…and what if you couldn’t? I never thought about that! It’s a lot harder than you’d think, so I can only imagine how it would be for an older person. I also enjoy the use of the blanket in the adductor slide. I might have to incorporate that in a yoga class. Fun use of a blanket! Thanks for the blog. 🙂
Thank you for this post Kayleigh! I really enjoyed the variations with blanket at the Yoga Tune Up ® level 1 training and your post is a great reminder. I have barely used blankets before, but want to include them now. Unfortunately I have a carpet in the room where I teach, so I am currently experimenting with sliding discs, bin bags or paper plates. Do you have any other suggestions? Thank you! Sandy
Great post! I love using props that can easily be found around the house to do exercises. No excuses not having equipment or what not.
Great! My shoulder is happy!
Thanks for this! I’d love to see links to more of the other posts here, but, it’s a great start, and a lot more than anywhere tells you when you’re buying a blanket (isn’t it just for keeping warm?). I think every blanket sold in a yoga studio should come with a list of things like this so people understand why it’s a yoga prop and not just got restorative class. I know mine will be getting a lot more diversity of use when I get home from YTU training. Another great one to add here would be the flying angel arms stretch. Thanks again, Kayleigh!
Oh my gosh, adductor slides. I hate them, but I need them so badly. It’s so difficult to keep a nice neutral spine. I love to introduce this pose right before Padattonasana A; suddenly that pose is so much more accessible and the legs are awake – in this pose the legs tend to go on vacation. I also love Sidewinder – I’ve had surgery on my spine (twice) and I find the pose not only invigorating, but release – it’s a very clever movement, I love it! I’ve never tried shoulder flossing with a blanket, that’s next on my list!
Absolutely agree. before trying YTU i considered a blanket only as a relaxation yin yoga prop. But there are so many great ways to use it. i love body surfing. its a great way to prepare the body for pull ups and an amazing cue to teach cobra pose based on pulling the ground and stretching the spine instead of pushing and compressing the lumbar.
I would love to see a description of Hamstring Slides. (or a mention of which Yoga Tune Up DVD it could be found on)