Using props in our yoga practice is beneficial for numerous reasons. Props are an important way to personalize our yoga practice and enable us to tailor our practice to the unique shape and structure of our individual bodies. Many people have the false perception that using props somehow makes a pose easier or that it’s “cheating” in a way. In actuality, props can enable us to to get more from each asana by aiding us in finding proper alignment. Achieving the proper alignment for our body type reduces the risk of injury and allows for greater opening, increased strength and flexibility and improved balance. Often if we struggle or try to push our body past its current limitations, the muscles tense. This muscle tension keeps us from engaging the muscles in the right way and ultimately prevents us from going deeper or more fully into a pose. Props help us to understand a pose and allow our bodies to slowly and safely increase flexibility and improve in strength.
Additionally, props allow us to maintain a steady, even breath as we move throughout our practice. Often, if we are struggling in asana, we create tension in the body and we let go of our breath awareness. It’s difficult to continue to breath deeply and steadily when we’re concentrating so hard on finding or maintaining a certain shape with our bodies or we’re creating a great deal of discomfort. Finding that balance between effort and ease, or stirha sukha, becomes more achievable with props.
Maintaining a deep, steady breath is a key component of quieting the mind and finding that place of calm and peace as we move through our practice. “Using props helps you breathe properly, using deep diaphragmatic breath, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to a sense of calm,” says yoga instructor Jessica Matthews, professor of integrative wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University. She goes on to say, “They help create moments of steadiness where you can be present and aware in your body, calming the chatter and distractions in the mind.” For example, using a block may help you find steadiness and ease in a pose like half-moon, allowing you to enjoy some peaceful moments there, without worrying about falling.
Another benefit of using props is that they can aid us in cultivating a beginner’s mind. They can allow us to safely experiment in different poses exploring what our bodies are capable of and how making adjustments with props can create new or different experiences in a poses. For example, what happens when we place our hand on a block in triangle pose? How does it feel when the strap moves from the sole of our foot to the heel? This sensory feedback gives you a better understanding of how our body moves in space, which can help increase awareness about muscle imbalances, compensations we subconsciously make, and how all of the parts of our body work together. This awareness allows us to address and better manage these unique aspects or our bodies.
Props commonly used include blankets, blocks, straps, bolsters and sandbags. Some benefits of each include:
* Aid in proper alignment
* Balance and stability
* Reduce joint stress
* Reduce muscle tension
* Bring the earth closer to you
* Increase range of motion
* Improve flexibility
* Mimics longer arms
* Improves posture
* Create relaxation
* Soften into pose,
* Allows deeper opening
* Improves blood flow and circulation
* Releases stress and tension
* Activate relaxation response
* Diffuse feelings of anxiety and sensory overload,
* Ground energy
Shared by Jenn Cheatle. Jenn is a beloved teacher at The Space. You can experience her kind and loving nature in Healing Flow, Healing Hatha, Healing Yin and Private Yoga.