By Laura McMullen for U.S News
It's easy to assume yoga is expensive. Classes may set you back 20 bucks each; $90 stretch pants may tempt you; and the cost of all that equipment -- mats, rolls, bolsters, straps, eye masks -- may resurface the very stress you calmed in your last $20 yoga class.
Relax. (Remember those deep breaths.) Yes, depending on which route you go, yoga can be pricey. But there are many ways to cut costs. For one, consider dropping a few of those classes and practicing downward dog on your own.
Another money saver? Make your own yoga props at home. Below, Abby Lentz, founder of the HeavyWeight Yoga classes and DVDs, which are aimed at yogis who are overweight and obese, shares a few of her favorite homemade yoga props.
Yoga blocks can help yogis deepen certain stretches, achieve hard-to-reach poses and improve alignment. These rectangular blocks are typically made of foam, cork or wood and -- on the cheap end -- can set you back about eight bucks for a pair.
While you can find these props in a sporting goods store, you can likely find a cheaper substitute in your pantry. Lentz suggests using canned goods for blocks. Try, for example, a family-size can of ravioli that's about 10 inches tall.
Dictionaries and other large books can also serve as blocks. (While the decline of print media has been challenging for some industries, we're glad it's benefiting cash-strapped yogis.) If you have a big book you haven't opened in the last decade or find one for cheap at a used book store, tightly tape it closed with layers of duct tape so the pages don't splay and it's one solid unit. Another tech boom casualty: the phone book. Slip a piece of hard cardboard about halfway between its pages to make it more sturdy, and tightly tape it closed to make a yellow-paged yoga block.
Yoga straps can be a lifesaver for yogis who need a little boost in flexibility. Imagine your instructor leads you into a pose that you're not quite flexible enough to completely achieve. Instead of sitting out that pose or worse -- attempting it and hurting yourself in the process -- consider using a yoga strap, which works to extend your limbs and achieve the benefits of that pose.
These props are simple -- they're typically just sturdy, cotton straps with buckles. Lentz suggests making your own at home by knotting two neckties together. If you don't have neckties handy, find them for a buck at a thrift store, or make your strap from a bathrobe sash, she adds.
Eye masks are sometimes used in yoga during savasana, or corpse pose, in which yogis attempt total relaxation. The eye masks, also called eye pillows, block the light and provide a gentle, soothing pressure around your forehead and eyes. Here's a quick way to create your own eye pillow at home in about a minute: Take a clean white tube sock, fill it with dry beans or rice, and then tie the end of the sock or sew it shut, Lentz suggests. YogaHound and LiveStrong also list how-tos for making slightly more complex eye bags, for those who aren't afraid to do a little more sewing.
Yoga mats are one of the few yoga props that Lentz hasn't been able to substitute. Some people who practice at home may skip the mat and do their poses on the carpet. Lentz says that's fine for sitting and lying postures, but it's not ideal for standing, as the pile may be too thick for steady footing. She suggests moving to an area of your home with hardwood or tile floors for standing postures.
Or, given the money you've saved on blocks, straps and eye masks (and perhaps avoiding the $90 stretch pants), consider investing in a mat. Shop around at big box stores such as Walmart and Target, discount stores such as TJ Maxx and Marshalls, sporting good stores and online, and finding a basic mat under $20 should be a cinch.