By Contributing Editor Colleen Welch

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One of my favorite aspects of yoga is that anyone can do it, especially if the teacher correctly sets up the class for success. Yoga isn’t about competition or looking better than the person next to you—it’s about giving yourself the attention and love you deserve.

Still, many students become discouraged when they first start practicing yoga because they can’t automatically flow into some of the more complex poses. I wish I could whisper these magic words into the ear of every beginning student: “How can you let go of struggle?” When my teachers have said these words to me, I find that my ego relaxes, and I usually float right into the pose.

yoga mats
Even though you won’t have to buy much equipment to get started with yoga – a mat or blanket, comfy clothes, and water are really all you need – as you tackle more challenging poses, you may consider having accessories like yoga blocks, a strap, and bolsters. These props can help you let go of struggle. Think about them as training wheels for your poses—and then stop insisting that you do everything perfectly the first time. (This is the sort of unreasonable perfectionism that yoga has taught me to ignore.)

Blocks help you fill space, like in half-moon pose, when you can’t quite float your back leg off the mat without bringing your front hand to the floor. A block can help stabilize and extend this pose. Blocks are also a wonderful tool for restorative poses, like supported bridge, in which you bring a block under your sacrum and relax onto your shoulders and feet.

But don’t go out and buy a block just because they’re useful. See how long you can make do with other options. My favorite studios have a stack of blocks in a corner of the studio—don’t hesitate to grab one on your way to rolling out your yoga mat. At home, you can use the following items instead of buying a block:

  • A thick, small book like a dictionary.
  • A shoebox filled with something to make it sturdy, like books.
  • Tupperware.
  • A box of Kleenex. (For poses that won’t take a lot of weight)
  • An actual brick (heavy but steady!)
  • Any piece of furniture that could bring you stability

These substitutions will serve you well until you’re ready to fork over the cash for a block (we sell a few at Grow and Make). Look for an upcoming post on sustainability issues to consider when buying a block. Until then, drink lots of water, and Namaste!