Do you use props when you practice yoga? If so, do you think about why you are using them? Many of us simply do what we are told in yoga class, whether it is online or in person, and grab a yoga block or yoga strap when the teacher tells us to. This is at it should be. We should all listen to our yoga teachers, but it is good to consider the reasons behind their instructions. Why are we using yoga props?
Yoga Props for Support
A simple answer is that props provide support when we do a yoga pose. Bolsters and blankets elevate parts of the body in a comfortable way while we lie in restorative yoga poses such as reclining bound angle or bridge pose. They provide lift and opening for the chest, for example, allowing us to relax and release while the breath stays light and even. This passive use of yoga props is well worth exploring when you need a quiet, nourishing yoga session.
Yoga props also give support in more active poses. If we have trouble with balance, practicing standing poses or inversions against a wall keeps us from falling over. In a similar way, a block or strap may provide extra stability while we are in a challenging asana. In active yoga poses, props help us to do things we might otherwise not be able to achieve.
Learning the Actions
Beyond providing support, props can help us learn the actions of a pose. With support for balance, we learn how to engage the legs, lift the chest and roll back the shoulders, actions we might not be able to do if we are on the verge of falling over. A strap helps us reach a foot so we can stretch hamstring muscles with straight legs or allows us to pull with our hands behind the back to open the chest. By learning these important actions, we improve our poses; we get more of the benefits of each pose.
Props as Teachers
Props are not intended to simply make yoga poses easier. They are intended to teach us. When you practice poses with a prop, be aware of the actions you are enhancing, where you are putting effort into the pose. Using props this way in active asanas, focusing on specific actions, you can actually make yoga poses more challenging. Being aware of what the prop provides helps us to practice with the awareness that brings growth and improvement. The physical expression of our yoga poses becomes better.
Letting Go of Props
As we learn more, we need our teachers less; we find out how to study and explore on our own. It’s the same with yoga props. As we learn more about each pose, particularly active asanas, we are less likely to need the extra support. If you are used to using a prop for a particular pose, see what happens when you set it aside. If you can maintain the effort and actions without bringing agitation to the mind, you need the support less than you thought. It’s time - with new confidence and awareness - to try standing on your own.