yoga prop tutorial

Yoga Prop tutorial 101: The Blanket

Blankets are a staple yoga prop, and very useful for a restorative practice. While in many forms of yoga classes blankets are used during savasana, as a warm layer, there are other uses of them. 

how to use a blanket as a yoga prop

Foundation: The single fold

One of the things blankets do is soften the hardness of the floor, which allows the muscle fibers to relax. You can use a stack of blankets or just one. The height you choose will depend on the asana, the intention of use, and how much you want to bring the floor closer to you.

Finding The Right Height

I often see students using way too much height under the head, or not enough, and the result is not an improvement of the posture. You want to be able to release tension in a restorative practice, to support you body in any number of poses from backbends, chest openers, forward bends, twists, and simple seated poses.

Two simple uses of Blankets

How you fold blankets is an important factor in using them as effective yoga props. You can roll or fold them, stack them up, or use combinations. They can be substituted for bolsters. Folding them well means having clean edges so they retain their shape. Remember that a yoga prop is there to support you and provide feedback. If they are falling apart this cannot happen.

SINGLE FOLD: FOUNDATION: Starting with the short ends of the blanket, it gets folded in half, then folded again twice. Smooth all edges. As seen in above photo

how to use the blanket as a yoga prop

Yoga Blanket folding step 1

DOUBLE FOLDED: Starting with the foundation fold one side into the middle, follow by the other side. Smooth all edges. As seen in above photo

how can I create a home yoga practicee

yoga blanket as bolster

The finished product, seen above, smooth edges can be used with another one together to make a nice bolster. Enjoy different ways to use yoga props in class today 

Or book a private!


Yoga Belt Video Tutorial

Yoga Belt Video Tutorial

Yoga Belt: How to Use Without Getting Tied Up In Knots

Yoga Belt – A Versatile Yoga Prop

I have noticed when it comes to using a yoga belt in class that many students get flustered. I have even encountered students who are so confused that they actually tie a knot in their strap, which is a pet peeve of mine. Here’s why: in the first instance, this is not as secure, in the second, it doesn’t allow for any movement, so if it is either too tight or too loose, you can then not improve that situation, and third, come on! just plain lazy! :-)

The yoga belt itself comes in different lengths. This one is my favorite D-ring. I prefer the long 10 feet ones because I am tall and they also adapt to different uses. I prefer the D-ring because it locks well so I do not worry it will slip open.

A yoga belt can be used to stabilize your joints, and they can either encourage flexibility or help to create both traction and ‘space’ if you are inflexible (which is not a bad thing, it just is what it is). I find I use a strap both to warm up and prepare for postures, as well as for any number of postures – both active and restorative. They really do help de-compress and give a pretty immediate sense of length and relief. Check through some of my other yogatherapy blogs for other insight

Yoga Belt Video Tutorial

Learning to tie a yoga belt in this video tutorial should set you up for ease and success for your home or group yoga class practice  

Tips For the Visual Learner

Simple video on the ‘anatomy of the yoga belt’ and a visual explanation so you don’t get tied up in knots! 

meditation for your muscles

meditation blog at


Meditation: For the mind and also for the muscles

Today I want to talk about using meditation for your muscles. I am preparing for my restorative yoga class, and came across an interesting article this week which focused on tight muscles and why not to actively stretch them. You can read it by clicking here; where the author says insightful things like “We have been conditioned to think of the tightness itself as the problem, thus the automatic tendency to try to stretch. But in reality, sometimes tightness is a result of the problem. In those situations, stretching is not the answer–at best it gets you nowhere, and at worst, it aggravates the problem. So the key to correcting the issue is figuring out why a muscle is tight. It might even clue you in to a problem you didn’t know you had….TIP: Not all tight muscles need to be or should be stretched;  sometimes the real problem is weakness not tightness. This needs to be considered when inflexibility persists despite consistent attempts at stretching.”

Why meditation for your muscles?

Where meditation comes in is that once your mind is calm, you get the space necessary to allow yourself to to move away fro “automatic tendency” and more towards a balanced and thoughtful approach that could include rest, postural changes or other modifications that are actually at the root of your tightness. So let’s allow our meditation to inform our muscles! See you on the mat or meditation cushion! Check out my Yoga Mind Cd for portable peace :-)

meditation ~ Rana Waxman Yoga Yoga Therapy

yoga backbends

Yoga backbends: the cobra, or bhujangasana, is one of the basic prone backbends in yoga. The spine extends in its entirety, from base of spine to base of neck. As well, there is a strong working action of the serratus posterior superior (under the armpits) which helps the chest expand, and works synergistically with the erector spinae group. The front core of the body has to help, providing support for the lumbar area. Additionally although you don’t want to push too much with the arms, any tightness in the biceps and triceps will affect the height the pose. The fingers, when used with interest, can also help access additional information in the shoulders, neck, chest and mid back.

The legs are far but passive in this pose, even though many students leave them behind in order to force height in the pose. This also leads, can lead, to disc compression which is not good. The legs should really be kept in alignment, especially for the SI joints. The glutes and hamstrings are working in this pose, especially to maintain adduction and internal rotation. If your legs externally rotate, you may have weakness in the medial hamstrings, which can cause the gluteus maximus to harden and overwork.

The baby below, makes the pose look simple and supple, which is what we hope for in this backbend, that there is a sense of extension throughout the entire spine. One tip is to move into it on the exhale rather than the inhale. I have tried this and it gives the pose lightness. Never throw your head back. :-)

yoga backbends

yoga backbends

creating your own rope wall

creating your own rope wall:

below is an awesome rope wall – not all studios have them, not all studios want them. When you understand the traction you get, not to mention the assistance with alignment…sigh…

rope wall

I live in an apartment and as you can see (and imagine) I have an extensive yoga prop collection. I do not over decorate, preferring to have wall space for practice. I would love to have a yoga rope wall set up, however, it is not feasible.

rope wall

Creating your own rope wall can be done using a door knob. You first have to get it out of your head that it isn’t perfect, but it is totally awesome as a simulation. The next thing you need to get is a 10 foot yoga strap with a D-ring buckle.

Check out my yogatherapyproplove store on Amazon for all the utensils of the trade. Before you tie the belt fold it in half. Then cover the door jam with the belt and take each long end around each of the door knobs and underneath. After that, you can fasten the ends. It may slip but that is ok, just fiddle with it. In this photo I left about a two foot loop. I then lay on my back and crossed my ankles, resting them in the loop for about two minutes per side – you switch the cross of the ankles mid way. There are a number of poses that can be done with this set-up. If you are in Jersey City or Hoboken, you can contact me for a private yoga lesson and we will set you up. Enjoy!

Core Strength

core strengthCore Strength:  this is a fun quiz to see whether you understand the meaning of core strength

What is the core?

a. What you throw away when you’ve eaten the tasty bit

b. More with a ‘C’

c. Only computers have one these days

d. An essential part of our being

e. What the tree huggers are after

If you answered ‘d’ you are on the right track. There is still some misunderstanding of the term ‘core strength’ or core stability. It used to be a term used in conjunction with the abdominal area, and whether you could do 50 crunches at the gym or just hold yourself rigidly through the centre. There is an ingredient of truth in this insofar as if you habitually let your tummy drop forward, therefore straining your lower back, you are not promoting core strength. You do however, want to keep your lower belly toned.

I would go further here and suggest that the term ‘core strength’ in terms of muscle action is composed of different muscles that will stabilize the pelvis, acting on spine and entire trunk of the body. When there is a good balance, you are able to be upright without collapsing your weight into one area. Yoga asana can help you develop these skills. One of these safe alignment skills we practice in yapana® yoga is to keep the lower belly toned all the way up to the top throat, and if you find this skill in your asana, you are on your way to building a pretty good core awareness.

Since I believe in #liveyouryoga, I will also add that you can breathe from your core, and connect through relaxation to you inner core of peace…so keep practicing core strength for different reasons!


yoga for hip opening

Yoga for hip opening : If you sit a lot, at desk, or in your car, you probably have ‘tight hips’. I find students tend to want to yank the hips open and this is not the safest approach. Tightness in this area is multi-dimensional, and who you are before beginning is important as well. I plan to teach some safe approaches tomorrow in the first of 6 class series starting with how to be attentive to the feet. The feet will act on the hips, and are actually a mirror of the hips.

This basic info graph shows how chronic sitters get extremely locked in the hip flexors in the front of the body so that these muscles, in constant contraction, shorten and tighten. A reasonable approach therefore is to use your yoga practice to lengthen these hip flexors which would provide a feeling of more ‘opening’.  In addition, your glutes, even though you are sitting on them all day, are in effect, underused whereas they are there to help with hip stability. Yoga can help this too, although walking is also good movement.

At the bottom of this info graph there are some useful tips. Even a few moments of yoga throughout your day can help severe tightness from taking control, so get proactive and get up more often even if just to shake your legs and do some foot circles

yoga for hip opening

Child’s pose

Child’s pose – called Balasana in Sanskrit is one of the prone poses in yoga, meaning the face is down rather than up. In some yoga schools they refer to it as embryo pose as well. For some people, bending this way is really uncomfortable, which is one reason why strategic prop placement is important. For example, in an active (unsupported) variation, the challenge  is to bring the sitting bones to the heels and forehead to floor.childs pose

These actions require a lot of lengthening from the spinal extensors, gluteals, piriformis, calves, feet. You also need to be able to widen the knees in order to make room for the front spine/belly. It is a pose where tightness in the hip flexors will show up and it may be hard to feel anything other than congestion and the inability to breathe. A helpful tip obviously practicing this pose on a full stomach – suffocating. So – in order to allow gravity to work for you rather than against you, in order for your nervous system to approach calm – which is the idea behind it, the props you use matter. Here, you can see we used a bolster, folded blanket, and 2 ThreeMinuteEggs. These just helped with tightness in the shoulders and actually freed up more space in the side ribs to be able to access a calm breath. Also, you can see how the hips and shoulders are kept in the same plane, instead of having one pull on the other. Generally, done this way, child’s pose can help blood flow to the pelvis, relieve some general back tension, and improve the flexibility of the hips. There are many ways, many options so contact me to help set you up in this fine pose!

child's pose yoga

It can be really uncomfortable or really relaxing and restorative. Sometimes in a vinyasa class, child’s pose is used as a segway or prep to downward facing dog.

Yoga Twists Without The Shout

Yoga Twists Without The Shout: Yoga Twists can either unwind the spine and help digestion or they can torque the spine and de-stabilize the SI joints..etc.  Most of my students – especially those with generic back pain tell me twists feel great but you do want to approach yoga twists with safe alignment (think belly button up).  Using your yoga as therapy, a few tips to keep in mind when you want to unwind with a yoga twist:

~ avoid twisting from the lumbar; stacking the pelvis and shoulders while maintaining a ‘straight’ spine … you may not go as deep but it will be a safer exploration

~ try to open the thoracic area enough to be able to emphasize the rotation here

~ put yourself into neutral after a twist (child’s pose for eg)

~ typically if you have just had abdominal surgery, are pregnant, have sciatica, herniated discs, SI joint dysfunction, twists are contraindicated. Some people want to go deeper into a twist and then you may have to let the opposite hip slide forward with you.

You may find one side easier that the other. You can do the tighter side twice. Feel it out.
Yoga twists Rana-twist garden

Yogatherapy – the shoulder jacket

Yogatherapy – shoulder pain relief: – the shoulder jacket for yoga shoulder pain relief. If you have a desk job, drive a lot, walk a lot or just plain shlump-a-lot, your shoulders may round forward and your head may drop. That is a lot of strain for the shoulders and neck, don’t you think? Headaches anyone? Probably that and other issues. Basically if you take that posture with you into everything else you do, it will not improve unless you teach yourself new muscular movement tricks.  Here is a simple but highly beneficial way to use a yoga strap to keep the shoulders seated on the back and open the front chest. You can even use it while you sit at your desk. It is a great yoga therapy tip for anyone who suffers from the shoulder shlumps ! I like 8ft or 10ft straps; you can get one here.

If you look like or are worried about looking like the kyphosis in this photo, yoga as therapy works wonders, I see it and work with it in private yoga classes all the time.

yogatherapy yoga shoulder pain relief

The steps for following along side this use of the yoga strap for a yogatherapy shoulder jacket are:

A ~ take belt buckle over left shoulder, leave tail down

B ~ take the tail cross the back under right armpit

C ~ loop the belt over the right armpit, take it with left hand

D ~ buckle up!

You can use this when you are sitting at your desk, or try a brief meditation with it.