Yoga balls are often used in physical therapy. They are also called exercise balls or stability balls. A yoga ball provides support during hip openers, back bends and other restorative yoga poses. It can help a yoga practitioner increase overall strength and flexibility.
What is a Yoga Ball?
Yoga balls are versatile exercise tools. Despite their name, yoga balls can be used for a lot more than just the practice of yoga. Yoga balls are used regularly in gyms, rehabilitation centers and fitness classes of all kinds.
Yoga balls are especially popular amongst people who want to strengthen their back and core (stomach muscles). This is because yoga balls allow practitioners a wider range of motion while forcing one to maintain proper alignment.
What to Consider When Buying a Yoga Ball
A yoga ball buyer should select a sturdy yoga ball that is suitable for the size of his or her body and the type of yoga exercise routines he or she normally practices.
Yoga Balls for Every Person’s Size
Select a yoga ball that is height-appropriate. A 75cm ball works well for people who are at least six feet tall. A 55cm yoga ball is better for adults who are shorter than 64 inches (5 feet, 4 inches) tall. A 65cm works well for everyone else in between.
Core Advantage Stability Balls
Core Advantage stability balls provide exercise tools for full-body workouts. This type of ball comes with a resistance band for the arms. Core Advantage stability balls provide a challenging and efficient workout that thus strengthens not only back and core muscles but also the arms. These balls are available in the same variety of sizes as normal yoga balls.
Thera-Band Exercise Balls
Thera-Band exercise balls can be used for exercise, but are designed specifically for the purpose of rehabilitation. They can help strengthen the muscles responsible for enabling good posture. This in turn eases people’s back pain. Thera-Band exercise balls come in the same variety of sizes as regular yoga balls.
How to Use a Yoga Ball
A yoga ball can be used for extra support while one practices difficult yoga postures. There are many DVDs available about how to use a yoga ball when practicing yoga or Pilates. Another option is to take classes that incorporate the use of yoga balls.
Yoga balls also generally come with a manual that inform one about how to incorporate the ball into any existing fitness routine.
A yoga ball can support one in doing challenging exercises. It is important to ensure that the type of ball one selects is sturdy, appropriate for his or her size and suitable for his or her fitness purposes.
Choosing a Pilates Mat
Mat exercises are at the core of the Pilates method, so choosing a mat is important. A poor choice can make mat work uncomfortable and difficult; a good mat adds comfort, aids hygiene, and can even make some exercises more effective.
Yoga Mats vs. Pilates Mats
Yoga mats are widely available, but they tend to be unsuitable for Pilates. Yoga mats are primarily designed to provide a sticky or non-slip surface that allows practitioners to hold a pose for a sustained period. They are usually too thin to offer enough cushioning to protect the spine, and since some Pilates exercises involve rolling back and forth over the spine, a thin mat will be uncomfortable. Some people also find the sticky surface distracting, especially against bare skin.
Yoga mats can be successfully used for hygiene purposes. If placed over a soft carpet or a padded studio mat, a yoga mat will provide a personal, easy-to-clean surface – ideal for students concerned about skin infections or allergies to studio cleaning products.
Home Mat Designs
A popular choice for Pilates is the Aeromat design, a thick, padded mat that can be rolled up for storage. Aeromats create a comfortable workout surface even on concrete floors. They are available from Balanced Body, Stott Pilates and Amazon.com.
- Very comfortable
- Moderately expensive
- Can be harder to keep clean
- Can tend to stay curled from being rolled up
Folding mats store easily and often have a comfortable, flocked surface. They are available from Balanced Body.
- Small when folded – easy to store
- Soft and comfortable
- Usually small overall
- Can be hard to clean
- Not as thick as Aeromats
Deluxe and Studio Mat Designs
Traditionally, studios use raised mats that come with a footstrap (used to assist with exercises like the Roll Up and Neck Pull), wooden handles (useful for comfortable Swan preps and Neck Roll, and invaluable for the Hip Twist and Can-Can), moon boxes (extending the mat surface for the Saw, Side Leg Kick Series and Boomerang, and also for Side Sit-Ups using the footstrap), and a wooden or weighted bar for Roll Ups. Full studio mats are available from Gratz Industries and Peak Pilates.
- Versatile for the full Pilates mat repertoire
- Last a lifetime
- Padded and comfortable
- Ideal support for beginners and to challenge advanced exercisers
- Most expensive
- Bulky – best left in the same place
Scaled-down studio mats are available from Gratz Industries for home use. These mats are thinner than the full raised mats, and fold in half for easier storage.
- A cheaper option with most of the raised mat functionality
- Easy to clean
Too bulky for easy transport
Whichever mat you choose, be sure to keep it clean by regularly spraying with a non-toxic cleaning solution and wiping dry.