If you’ve ever been yoga ‘prop’ shopping, you may have stumbled upon sand bags among a sea of blocks and straps. Why sand bags? What are they for? Are they just another gimmick to get you to part with your money?
I actually love sand bags. I originally began to use them to help with insomnia, but there are tons of ways to incorporate them into your yoga practice.
Yoga sand bags typically weigh around 10 pounds, and like blocks and straps, they’re extremely versatile. You can use them in any type of practice.
In addition to being soothing, they can be used to add a little extra weight to encourage a deeper opening in certain poses and help you, the yogi, let go of resistance.
Before I get into all of the ways how to use them, I wanted to touch on why they are soothing in certain poses.
In hospitals and psychiatric care, weighted blankets are used to provide input to the deep pressure touch receptors throughout the body. Deep pressure touch stimulation (DPTS) has been found to have beneficial effects in a variety of clinical settings (Barnard and Brazelton 1990, Gunzenhauser 1990). Deep pressure touch helps the body relax by mimicking a firm hug or swaddling. The weight helps us feel secure and grounded. In fact, DPTS helps encourage the production of Serotonin, a hormone that induces a more peaceful and happier state of mind.
Weighted blankets have been popular in treating ADHD, autism, insomnia, anxiety, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. But using weights to soothe is not a new technique.
For me, I find the weight soothing and the feel of the cool sand inspires memories of digging my toes into the sand at the beach.
So, how can you use sandbags in your practice? Here are 8 ways:
- In supported fish (matsyasana) using a bolster or block, place sandbags in your hands to encourage a deeper opening in the chest and shoulder muscles.
- In seated bound angle pose (badha konasana), bring the soles of your feet together and place sandbags on your knees to help open the inner thigh and inner hip muscles without resistance.
- Place the sandbag under your foot for a gentle hamstring and calf stretch.
- Increase lung capacity and sooth breathing problems during pranayama by placing a sandbag on your abdomen while lying on your back.
- Soothe your psyche, back and hips by placing a sandbag on your low back during child’s pose (balasana)
- Have a friend place a sandbag on your feet in legs up the wall to stabilize your legs and provide support
- Place a sandbag on your thighs near your waist in seated staff pose (dandasana) to help you root down as you lengthen the spine.
- Preserve your prana in Savasana by lying sandbags on your thighs as you come into final resting pose
You can buy yoga sandbags online unfilled from retailers like yogaaccessories.com, shophalfmoon.com or sunshineyoga.com OR you can make your own. Just get a 10 pound bag of rice, and slide it into a pillow case or wrap it in a towel. You can also buy unfilled bags that are less expensive and fill them yourself with rice or sand.
Sandbags can help you create space and deepen poses that may be particularly difficult to release into due to resistance (physically and emotionally). Let a little extra weight help you sandbag your yoga practice.
Do you have other ways to use sandbags in your practice? If so, let me know here.
– Your Charmed Yogi
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(Photo: Shop Half Moon)