Lindsey of Yoga~Nu~U using a block and a strap to help align the elbows, support the arms in a parallel position and keep the hands stable in Ardha Pincha Mayurasana, Dolphin Pose.
Yoga Prop Me Up
To indulge in some yoga props to support your practice or not?
This can be a common question for yogi’s and especially for people coming new to yoga. And with so many different types of practice where some frequently use props to support/assist and others that move away from their use, it can be confusing. This article seeks to offer some insights and food for thought with regard to props, what sort and where they can be considered useful. As always follows your intuition on what you need to get the most out of your yoga practice. Remember things also change with time and circumstances, so where you once could reach ‘that place’ you may now appreciate a helping block!
Let’s take a look at what I call the 4 B’s of Yoga Props; belts, blocks, blankets and bolsters. There are of course others but these cover the more commonly used to assist in yoga asanas (postures). Let’s also remind ourselves about some of the reasons why we would want to consider reaching for a prop.
- Sometimes it can be our minds that tell us how far to move into a posture, rather than letting the body find its path. With the use of a prop or even a partner you can encourage movement past psychological barriers. In turn this can allow the body to experience a new depth in your practice, helping to open up and release.
- Props can help work with injuries or differences in your body to maximise the lengthening or twist of a pose. They can help balance out our right and left sides, front and back.
- Props can help build confidence, explore postures and specifically aid the mind in creating a blue print of where/what the body is working towards. For example, if the hands are not reaching the feet in Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) a strap around the feet held by both hands encourage the mind and body to see/feel where to work towards whilst keep the back in a good straight alignment. Over time props can help you progress with your posture work, find good alignment, essential to help keep your yoga injury free.
- Leeann Carey writes for Yoga International and suggests that props can ‘encourage flexibility, support inflexible parts of the body, create traction and space and provide relief in some cases’. And the Yoga Basics website adds that they ‘shift poor alignment habits, develop strength and awareness, and experience asanas more deeply’.
- Iyengar Yoga is one style of yoga practice that encourages the use of props and their take on it is ‘it allows students to practice asanas (yoga postures) and pranayamas (breathing patterns) with greater effectiveness, ease, and stability, props can provide support for the body and allow the mind to relax and more profoundly receive the benefits of the yoga.’
So now let’s examine the 4 B’s of Yoga Props.
Can be made from different materials including cork, foam and wood. Which one is down to personal preference and budget. Can be used in so many ways to aid your practice. From sitting on it to raise your pelvis helping open the hips, placing it between your legs to activate the inner thigh muscles in Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand), to placing your hand on in it in Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) to help feel your way into the balance and lengthening of the body.
My view is any old blanket you have at home will usually do. Great to get comfy for relaxation. Can also be a good substitute for a block or bolster as you can roll it up, fold it up and use to support limbs in postures, provide padding to bony ankles pressing into the ground etc.
|Belts (or straps)
These can help the body to lengthen without over stretching muscles/tissues. They can stabilise joints and support less flexible parts of the body. Great for creating space. Easy to adjust to lengthen or shorten as required to suit your body, posture and practice.
Specifically designed yoga prop in a long cylindrical shape. Great for supporting backs and under the knees helping make asanas more accessible to those with injuries or in areas which may be less flexible. Great for relaxation postures.
My advice from the fifteen years I’ve been practising yoga is to keep an open mind and let go of any judgements about using an aid in your practice. Give a prop a go, if you never try, you’ll never know! And whatever you may choose to use to assist your practice, use it positively. Be creative and flexible in trying out how props can support and challenge you.
“My yoga. It doesn’t matter if things aren’t perfect. My practice is my time to feel alive, loved and free.”
Namaste. Lindsey of www.yoganuu.com
At Yog-ee.com we’d love to share your thoughts, experiences and recommendations in the use of props. Please drop us a line!
Lindsey Porter is an accomplished Project Manager in Financial Services who is now running her own business providing WellBeing Retreats in Scotland and overseas, Yoga classes and other therapies and writing articles on topics she’s passionate about. She is an experienced Akhanda Yoga Teacher, NLP Practitioner, Reiki Master and Holistic Therapist.
 Iyengar Institute of Los Angeles. www.iyila.org