“The importance of incorporating props into your practice.”
When I first stepped into a yoga studio I was overwhelmed by all the tools. Blocks, straps, balls, chairs, ropes, bolsters ,benches, blankets… what are these mysterious things and how do you use them?
I powered my way through many yoga classes hardly using any props at all. I wanted the challenge and in my eyes props were just a waste of time, something a total beginner would need and a sign of weakness.
Until… I injured myself. A silent but oh so painful overstretching of my latissimus dorsi in a seated forward bend. I simply denied my bodies limitations and was forcing my fingers to reach my toes, because that’s what this pose is supposed to look like right?
Wrong! I carried on with my practice for a few more days before I realized I had to take a break. This injury had really opened my eyes and made me understand what yoga was all about. Yoga is a journey -it took me months to touch my toes due to my tight hamstrings- and it can’t be forced or rushed. I started enjoying the journey. I started using props.
Blocks are a great support in most poses and they can even help you jump through your vinyasas with ease. Can’t reach your palms to the mat in forward extensions? Using blocks to focus on the lengthening of the trunk and opening of the hamstring. They will enhance your personal understanding of each posture and will get you the real therapeutic benefits of the asanas
Just like blocks, straps are a great help for beginners and pros alike. This simple tool would have saved me from the agony of a pulled muscle by simply placing it on the soles of my feet to bring the body into alignment and actually doing some efficient lengthening on “my oh so tight hammies!!” They help you bind, keep your body long and maintain the distance of your elbows in arm balances.
Bolsters are mainly used in restorative asanas as a support. You can sit on them to elevate your hips in seated positions to keep your spine erect or have them support your back in backward extensions.
They keep you cozy and warm during savasana but can also be folded and used in all seated asanas for padding and to help lengthen the trunk. Place them on the mat to protect your knees or have it placed in front of you during arm balances or headstand.
Embracing the wall as a prop, it will give you guidance in alignment, orientation and resistance in forward extensions. It provides safety and allows you to practice inversions like headstand or handstand.
My injury did not put me off practicing yoga, in fact I fell in love with it even more as I discovered a whole new ease of understanding -through props- to not fit the poses but let the poses fit my unique body, taking me to a new height physically and spiritually. Even as an experienced yogi using props in poses that you master easily will give you a new dimension on alignment and adds diversity to strengthen your asanas. I hope I could shed some light on the use and benefits of props to those of you who always thankfully decline them in class… Use them and Be Safe!
Written by Anna Worne: Anna recently completed her 500 hr Ashtanga Vinyasa TTC at Abhinam Yoga Center in Dharamkot. She is currently a guest teacher at our Yoga School in Patnem, Goa, where she is leading evening Yoga classes.