At the outset, I want to clarify that the traveling yoga teacher in the title of this blog may not be what you think. In this case, the title does not refer to well-known teachers that travel the country or the world to bring yoga to dedicated practitioners. This article is meant for yoga teachers who travel their cities and states to bring yoga to out-of-the-way places or institutions with underserved populations.
Many yoga teachers enjoy the luxury of teaching in studios outfitted with plenty of props. But just as often, we offer yoga in hospitals, prisons, schools, shelters, parks and other non-studio environments. Sometimes these places provide yoga mats, and a few provide yoga blocks and/or yoga straps. But often it’s up to the teacher to carry props to the location if he/she wants to use props in their teaching.
As you might guess, this can get rather cumbersome. Back in the ’80s when I first began teaching yoga, almost everyone traveled from venue to venue. Yoga studios were just not a thing back then. Most of us even chose to buy small station wagons to make our “journeyman” yoga teaching easier.
I can remember carrying an armload of yoga mats and a bag of straps wherever I went. My car looked like a yoga prop shop. One teacher friend went so far as to tote a wire box with 15 solid pine blocks in it. That meant she also had to keep a hand truck in her car to get her blocks into the venue. But it was worth it to us to make sure we could accommodate our students’ diverse needs.
Why Use Yoga Props?
Yoga props are an important tool for healthy yoga practice. This is true in a yoga studio, but also in other environments. There’s no one-size-fits-all yoga practice. We’re all very different. Props help us all experience the benefits of asana practice, no matter what our level of strength and flexibility.
In some ways, the groups a traveling yoga teacher might encounter are even more diverse than the studio-going population. For example, my classes at Huntsman Cancer Institute include caregivers, staff and patients. Classes there have included marathon runners and patients practicing while attached to chemo drips—all practicing together. Yoga props can be the great equalizer, allowing everyone to enjoy a common experience.
Essential Props for a Traveling Yoga Teacher
Fortunately, Huntsman Cancer Institute has a closet full of props—mats, blocks, straps, and even blankets and bolsters. But this is relatively rare. If you’re carrying props to your classes, which are the most essential props, and easiest to transport? Here’s a list of my favorites:
- Lightweight Yoga Mats: If a non-traditional yoga venue provides any type of props, it’s probably going to be yoga mats. But if the place where you’re teaching doesn’t provide them, lightweight is the way to go. Here are the lightest options: Tapas Travel Yoga Mat (lightest and most packable of all, but possibly on the thin side for some people), Tapas Original Yoga Mat (standard thickness), Tapas Ultra Yoga Mat (thicker but still very lightweight), Earth Elements Yoga Mats (thick and thin options). I’d suggest bringing a few of each thickness to accommodate your students’ preferences.
- Yoga Straps: Yoga straps are relatively small and lightweight, so it’s easy to carry them from place to place. But the Cinch and Quick-Release Straps are much lighter than D-Ring straps, especially when you’re carrying a bunch of them. The 8-foot and 10-foot straps are the most versatile for diverse populations.
- Yoga Blocks: Be grateful for Foam Yoga Blocks! Most traveling yoga teachers can carry a box of 15 foam blocks with one arm, rather than the hand truck we needed back in the day to carry the original solid-wood blocks. (Hugger Mugger’s Wood Yoga Blocks are actually hollow construction, making them a bit lighter than the original wood blocks.) Four-inch foam blocks (solid and marbled) are the most versatile.
- A Really Big Yoga Bag: If you were about to ask, “How can I possibly carry all this stuff?” here’s your answer. The YogaPro Duffel Bag can accommodate a huge amount of yoga paraphernalia. Packing all your props in one bag eliminates having to make several trips to and from your car. The YogaPro bag has both traditional handles and padded backpack straps.
If you’re a traveling yoga teacher, we’d love to hear your suggestions for making your journeys easier and more productive.