The simple gear used in yoga has largely remained unchanged for 5,000 years. But after the ancient Indian exercise discipline caught on in America, its 20 million strong practitioners naturally started coming up with ideas to make it safer and more effective. Here are four innovative new takes on some rather ordinary stuff you’d have never thought could be improved but now is: mats, blocks and straps.
Extra reach, less strain
Three Minute Egg: Eye-shaped foam yoga blocks measuring 3-by-4.5-by-12 inches that are designed to help extend reach and balance while reducing hand and wrist strain.
Likes: Developed by Jason Scholder to fit comfortably in the small of his back, these curved blocks can replace standard rectangular yoga blocks while adding challenge and safety. The inherent instability works your balance and forces you to keep your weight back on your feet and legs, thereby reducing flexion strains to hands and wrists, common problems for some. The shape seemed to mesh more comfortably with my various body parts than squared blocks and functioned just as well when placed between thighs and ankles in standard positions. Two densities are available: Soft Namastegg and Hard Boiled Egg.
Dislikes: Older yoga students may not enjoy the Eggs’ instability. Of course, highly flexible people don’t need blocks of any type, unless they practice the prop-intensive Iyengar variety of yoga.
Price: Two for $39 or four for $69. (310) 916-9344; https://www.threeminuteegg.com.
Majisports MajiMat: Rubber yoga mat with built-in half-inch foam padding to protect knees, forearms and elbows.
Likes: It is far more comfortable than traditional yoga mats, giving you “happy knees,” in the words of inventor Giovanni Villa, who came up with the idea of adding padding two years ago after noticing that many yoga poses put significant strains on the joints. The rubber mat is studded with slightly raised non-slip dots for good traction. Measures 5 feet, 10 inches long and 2 feet wide.
Dislikes: No strap or bag is included. It is heavier than a normal yoga mat and rather expensive.
Price: $119. (310) 493-9675; https://www.majisports.com.
Dual-loop super strap
Infinity Strap: Yoga strap with figure-eight pattern.
Likes: Simple, effective, well designed and easier to use than conventional single-loop, adjustable yoga straps. My feet and hands were able to instantly slip into their proper place. Inventor Amir Zaki, who came up with the infinity shape after concluding that traditional straps were too cumbersome, added a subtle twist at the opening of the loops, which always keeps them open. There are two versions: a non-stretch cotton and a stretchy nylon-rubber hybrid that includes a non-slip piping.
Price: $14 to $22, depending on length and type. (323) 834-9782; infinitystrap.com.
YogaForce A-line mat: A-shaped mat (19.5 inches wide at the feet and 29.5 inches wide at the shoulders) that includes several alignment lines and built-in tie-up and shoulder straps for easy transport.
Likes: No more finding yourself cockeyed on the mat during downward-facing dog. Inventor Annie Appleby, knocked crooked in a car accident, added a center line and three horizontal lines to align herself, and it kept me straight every time. The ergonomic shape fits your body great and, for many poses, it helps keep your face out of where your feet just were. The carry straps, conveniently sewed onto the rear, never get misplaced and include a built-in key or money holder.
Price: $79. (323) 309-8808; https://www.yogaforce.com.
Wallack is the co-author of “Barefoot Running Step by Step.” firstname.lastname@example.org