Incorporating props into a yoga workout allows you to enhance various stretches and target different muscles in your full-body routine. While yoga bricks and belts are common props, yoga balls aren't used as frequently. Yoga balls come in two main types -- one is light and full of air, and the other is weighted with sand. Although the large inflatable ones might be easier to work into your routine, the weighted ones offer a more powerful workout.
Weighted Yoga Balls
Weighted yoga balls are similar to medicine balls, but smaller. With a soft rubber exterior, they are about 4 inches in diameter, making them easy to hold in one hand. Some weighted balls have straps, making them even easier to hold during a yoga routine. These types of yoga balls are filled with sand, which adds a small amount of weight to the prop. Weights typically vary from 1 pound to 5 pounds.
Work the Arms
Weighted yoga balls add an extra strength-training dimension to the traditional yoga workout. Hold a sand-filled ball while extending your arms in Tree or Chair pose. For a more challenging workout, take hold of the weighted ball before lifting your arm to the ceiling in Extended Triangle or Half Moon pose -- the ball workout is more challenging with these poses because you must support the ball's weight with just one arm.
Enhance the Stretch
Weighted yoga balls are also effective for enhancing the stretch in certain poses. If seated forward bends are too simple, place a weighted yoga ball at the soles of your feet and grab onto the ball instead of your soles. If you can’t quite hook your fingers together behind your back in Cow Face pose, hold a weighted ball between your fingers instead.
Target Your Core
If you have extensive yoga experience and feel comfortable in most of the poses, consider incorporating a weighted yoga ball into your routine to target the abdominal muscles. For example, balance the ball on the soles of your feet in Supported Shoulderstand. Slowly lower your legs a few inches and then lift them back to a fully extended position -- all without dropping the ball. Rather than placing your hands on the floor during Plank, support them on the weighted ball instead.
When referring to a yoga ball, many people think of a different type of ball -- commonly called a stability ball. Typically made of a durable vinyl or PVC plastic material, these balls are inflated with air. Typical stability balls tend to be 2 to 3 feet in diameter, although smaller and larger sizes are available. Use your height as a guideline for selecting a stability ball size. When sitting upright on a yoga ball with your feet flat on the ground, you should have a 90-degree angle at the hips and knees. Inflatable yoga balls can be used to support your body during various yoga postures, including Downward-Facing Dog or Wheel.
Krista Sheehan is a registered nurse and professional writer. She works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and her previous nursing experience includes geriatrics, pulmonary disorders and home health care. Her professional writing works focus mainly on the subjects of physical health, fitness, nutrition and positive lifestyle changes.