How to Use a Yoga Blanket

How a Blanket Can Enhance Your Yoga Practice

Sitting on a Blanket
Sitting on a Blanket. Image Source/Getty Images

When I walk into a yoga class, I always grab a block and a blanket. They both come in handy in so many different poses. The other day, the woman on the next mat asked me what the blanket was for. The basic answer is that it's good for elevation and cushioning. Here are some of the poses where you can best apply these functions. If you practice at home and don't have an official yoga blanket, don't worry. And household blanket will do. Try one that is fairly substantial, not a loose knit. There are a lot of different ways to fold a blanket, which you will discover if you take Iyengar Yoga. Different folds may serve different purposes, but don't get too caught up in how you fold it as long as it's not lumpy. You can also roll up a blanket and use it instead of a bolster

Take a Comfortable Seat

How many times have you heard this instruction at the beginning of a yoga class? A blanket helps you get comfortable in two ways. First, it pads the hard floor. Second, it lifts your hips. Try sitting on a folded blanket (or two, depending how much elevation you need). Place the blanket under your seat to raise it above the level of your knees. The more your knees pop up when you sit cross-legged, the higher you want to bring your seat. This creates an easeful position for the lower body, helps open the hips, and allows you maintain a straight spine, all in all increasing your comfort. 

Padding Your Knees With a Blanket

Camel Pose With a Blanket
Camel Pose With a Blanket. Chris Clinton/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Knees are sensitive joints. Any pose that requires you to kneel or be on all fours can benefit from the addition of a blanket for padding. The process is pretty simple: fold the blanket so that it lies flat and thin across your mat, then place your knees on it. Poses where you'll find this handy include camel (shown here), cat - cow stretch, hands and knees balance, gate pose, and crescent lunge. Really anytime you are asked to kneel, reach for a blanket. 

Padding Your Hips With a Blanket

Bow Pose With a Blanket
Bow Pose With a Blanket. Ann Pizer

Like the knees, the bony protuberance of the hips can feel uncomfortable or even painful when pressed against the floor, even if you have a thick mat. I find a blanket most helpful in prone poses like bow and locust where you are pressing the pelvis into the floor. I've actually gotten bruises on my hips when I don't use extra padding. Each body is different, so if you find prone positions are hard on your public bone, take the time to slip a thinly folded blanket under them before your try.

Using a Blanket in Shoulderstand

Shoulderstand With a Blanket
Shoulderstand With a Blanket. Debra McClinton/Taxi/Getty Images

While there are many ways to teach shoulderstand, I adhere to the method of using padding underneath the shoulders and letting the head and neck hang off, ideally onto the bare floor, which allows the back of the head to slide as necessary. The thinking here is that this helps preserve the natural curve of the upper spine instead of flattening it. I also find it more comfortable. You can see how the mat is folded over the blanket here, although the blanket is very thin. A thicker blanket (or even two) would work better for most people. If you are using a Mexican style blanket, fold it in half lengthwise and then into thirds to make a nice flat surface. 

Using a Blanket for Warmth

Using a Blanket for Warmth
Using a Blanket for Warmth. John Freeman/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

There's one last obvious use for a blanket; it keeps you warm. When you are lying in savasana or sitting for meditation after asana practice, your body cools off quickly, especially in cold weather. if you have a blanket ready, you can drape it over yourself as you rest. In savasana, you can also try sliding a rolled up blanket under your knees to help release your back. A folded blanket or two placed on top of your thighs creates a pleasant weight that helps you feel grounded. There are lots of ways to use a blanket throughout your practice.

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