JUST ANNOUNCED: Jason Cale Band will be playing our Best Of event! Grab your tickets now before they are gone!

Yoga gear helps loosen up stiff bodies

"I can't do that," said the 36-year-old woman to my right as I leaned down and touched my toes in a yoga class. "I'm a runner." Such limitations may seem ironic, but they're all too common among seemingly fit athletes: marathoners so tight that they can barely reach their shins, cyclists so fixed in their hunched-over riding position that they can't lie flat -- "like crabs," as one masseuse told me. Flexibility is a key element in performance, and a fun and effective way to get it back is through yoga, which is increasingly popular among the high-VO2-max crowd. Helping the cause are new yoga accessories that can help loosen up any body, athletic or not.

Sun Salutations, Inc.

First, a firm footing

Sun Salutations Yoga Grip Foot Gloves: Thin, tight, cotton-Lycra socks that have a separate section for the big toe and bottom surfaces covered with tiny, rubbery nonslip dots.

Likes: Safe and hygienic. Keeps you stable by preventing sweat-slick feet from slipping on a mat or hardwood yoga-studio floors, and limits contact with germs remaining from earlier classes. The mitten-like, separated-toe design makes it easy to grab your big toe, a common yoga move. Very comfortable in sandals too.

Dislikes: None

Price: $14.98. (888) 411-4747; www.yogagripgloves.com.

Yoga Props

Hang time

Yoga Props Yoga Ropes: Four wall-mounted loops of half-inch-thick rope that allow you to do extreme back and shoulder stretches.

Likes: Quickly loosens up inflexible body parts. Particularly helps cyclists unkink their hunched torsos with backbends and other exercises. To use, hold the handles formed by the tied-off ends of the rope and move though several all-body hangs and stretches illustrated in the usage guide.

Dislikes: You need a drill, a stud finder and a spare wall you don't mind drilling holes into. If you knew how to tie ropes, you could probably buy all the parts (four ropes and four big ring-head screws) at Home Depot for less than $15.

Price: $100. (888) 856-9642; www.yogaprops.net.


Good vibrations

YogaPro Yoga Toes and Mini Massager: Gel brackets that spread your toes, plus two attached mini-vibrators that give a massage.

Likes: Effective and soothing. Spreading out toes that have been smushed together by shoes feels great; some say it enhances balance and circulation, strengthens foot muscles, and aids athletic performance. The tiny (2 1/4 - by- 5/8 -inch) massagers, clipped to the bracket, provide a luxurious buzz.

Dislikes: None

Price: $49.95 (YogaToes) and $24.95 (Mini Massager). (800) 488-8414; www.yogapro.com.

Hugger Mugger

Support system

Hugger Mugger Cork Block: A 9- by 5 1/2 - by- 3 1/2 -inch block made of cork. Blocks are used as support for difficult movements and poses, such as sitting for a prolonged period on the haunches.

Likes: Stays drier than typical foam blocks.

Dislikes: None

Price: $15.95. (800) 473-4888; www.huggermugger.com.

Roy Wallack is the author of "Run for Life: The Anti-Aging, Anti-Injury, Super-Fitness Plan to Keep You Running to 100." roywallack@aol.com.

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette