I wish that when I had started taking yoga it had been at a studio that emphasized the many ways to boost your yoga practice with props.
Just think of the greater safety, ease and ‘right alignment’ I could have enjoyed from the very beginning if these valuable tools had been placed at the side of my yoga mat, and I’d been taught how to use them to my best advantage.
But once I found my way to Yoga from the Heart and Lynn Burgess’ fabulous team of instructors, my mind began to make up for lost time, learning how, why and when to use props…and my body reaped immediate benefits.
The most compelling reason to use a prop in your yoga practice is to “bring the floor up to you” so that you can maintain safe body alignment in the pose and thereby enjoy its health benefits fully, despite any physical restriction you might be experiencing right now. For example, I practiced Triangle Pose for years without the use of a block at my side. The tightness in my hamstrings, calves and hips prevented me from taking the shape in a way that would safely and reliably stretch those tight muscles and strengthen my core. I didn’t realize this until the first day I used a block and experienced Triangle Pose as it was meant to feel. The block allowed my body to bend and rotate safely and effectively. This was an ‘aha’ moment of the greatest magnitude. I began to use the block faithfully for Triangle Pose (and other standing poses) with gratitude and joy. Using the block also revealed some old habits that practicing without it had encouraged, and which might not be so good for my body long-term. I am grateful for this reminder to practice in a safe and healthy way. It’s also good to know that if I learn how to use props correctly (and use them faithfully) my personal yoga practice can be sustained for many years to come.
Another reason to use props, I learned, was to focus attention more intently on a muscle movement that lets a student take a pose more deeply than he or she would if practiced without this awareness. For example, a block placed between the thighs in Mountain Pose helps to pattern my body for more effective leg engagement as I move through the yoga class. Or, a strap secured around my arms in shoulder stand can teach me how to keep my upper body safely anchored as I support my lower body reaching up to the ceiling. The bottom line is that the proper use of props can encourage the muscle memory and body awareness that will help me safely advance my yoga practice. What’s not to like about that?
The third reason to use props—and to love using them— is that they can help support the body so that targeted muscles can safely release in restorative poses, which are generally held between 3 to 5 minutes at a time. Bolsters, blankets, straps and blocks combine forces to support my body in safety and comfort as I deepen the intended relaxation points. This is an ‘ah-spa’ moment that is only possible on the yoga mat with the assistance of all those friendly props!
Crazy as it might sound, I view my yoga props as friends for life. They boost my strengths, keep me safe and bring comfort in ‘tight’ situations. I won’t step on my yoga mat without them!
Written by Dianne Ochilitree