THE BENEFITS OF PROPS IN YOGA
What are props used for and why?
B.K.S. Iyengar refined the use of props in the practice of yoga to allow all practitioners access to the benefits of the postures regardless of physical condition, age, or length of study.
Many times in class we will hear our teachers say, “Grab a block if you can’t touch the floor and grab a strap if you can’t touch your toes.”
Props help practitioners of all levels to gain the sensitivity of a yoga pose while receiving the benefits and not overdoing it. When we give ourselves a little support, our body can unfold gently into the pose. Force is only met back with force, which is counterproductive in our practice. (and our life, see where I’m going here?) Props can help students practice asanas and pranayama more effectively, efficiently and at ease.
Using yoga props doesn’t mean you’re a cheater or that you are weak. As asanas are more focused on taking away and undoing more so than in addition, yoga props can benefit students to go deep within that understanding.
Props can be used to:
Create optimal body alignment.
Make specific actions or poses accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to perform the posture due to physical limitations.
Help adjust or support the practitioner to work in a range of motion that is safe and effective.
Instruct or highlight a particular quality, action, or aspect of a yoga posture to enhance personal understanding of a posture and its effects.
Help all practitioners (including the most advanced) gain sensitivity to the balance of effort and relaxation in the postures
Provide support so that the practitioner can receive the deep benefits of holding a posture for significant time periods.
Enhance the restorative or therapeutic qualities of a posture
Iyengar Yoga Props include sticky mats, blankets, belts, blocks, chairs, benches, wall ropes, sandbags, and other objects that help students experience the various yoga poses more profoundly.
Allowing 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.
The following outline a few of the props and their uses.
This prop comes in all shapes, sizes, and firmness. Depending on the use, you may want a larger or smaller one.
My personal preference is firmer support, but much like choosing pillows, it is all personal. Choose what is right for you. It’s recommended that you get a standard-sized “flat” bolster, as these help with seated meditation and asana.
For reclining poses, a cylinder type bolster is wonderful in creating comfort. Try them in heart-opening and forward folding poses.
Cork blocks are a favorite yoga prop for their unique combination of stability and weight and they won’t slide on the wood floors.
They are mainly used to assist in stability in standing poses and flexibility within a floor series. They help you take away tension in places you wouldn’t be able to do on your own.
A great example is supported by the fish pose.
While lying the upper back on the block, you can melt away stress held in our shoulders and back.
Refreshing an area of the body where the energy can feel stagnant and dull.
There are other types of blocks such as foam blocks, which are lightweight and have more cushioning.
The drawback is that they are not stable, and are not the best choice to use in standing poses.
You may enjoy the give they have when resting body weight on them if you find the cork blocks uncomfortable.
Yoga straps can provide instant relief for practitioners.
This prop stabilizes joints, improves flexibility and creates traction and space.
They can take a strenuous stretch into a yummy, relaxing unfolding.
Straps come in different lengths to accommodate different uses. We prefer using the 250cm length size for it’s versatility, but you may enjoy having a couple of lengths for your home practice. D-ring belts are the most recommended as they have the best locking system and are the easiest to adjust. They take a while getting used to when practicing on your own, but you’ll be able to hook yourself up with ease in no time.
Try some simple reclined leg stretches in the evening to help you unwind from the day. It’s divine.
Blankets can be used to bring the floor to you, purposely to soften up hard areas and weigh down parts of the body.
Yoga blankets are sold on many online sites, but you can also use blankets from home or even large towels.
Whether they are folded or rolled, blankets are great for supporting twists and forward bends or padding tender knees or wrists.
Roll and fold blankets when supporting your body weight for the most benefit.
So don’t be afraid to grab that block and strap next time you head into class. Yoga props aim to support your yoga practice and create ease within, which carries over into your life.
And we can all use a little more of that, can’t we?