When I attended my first yoga class, I made the same mistakes many newbies make — I compared myself to others, and judged myself for not being able to get into or hold poses that other people (who appeared to be less fit than I) seemed to do easily. I pushed, I forced, I … well, I felt really totally demoralized, and when the instructor came by with a strap and a couple of blocks, I took it as an insult.
Fast forward 20 years or so and … yeah, I’m well aware that this is not how yoga is supposed to go. And when it comes to props? Oh my gosh, give ’em all to me, please.
Yoga isn’t about winning. Sure, it feels good to finally nail a pose you’ve been working toward, especially some of those fun balance poses, but yoga is more about experiencing the practice than achieving a certain level. It’s not like you earn a certain color mat once you can hold Crow, you know? And that means that it’s far more important to move into and hold poses correctly than to force yourself into a pose for which your body isn’t ready.
And that’s why props are so great! A block or two (here are our fave ones to use) can allow you to execute poses like Triangle (Trikonasana) or Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana) properly. A strap lets you experience Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana) without sacrificing form — but oh, trust me, you will still get plenty of stretch. Using a pillow, bolster, or folded up mat allows those of us with tight hips to settle into Pigeon (Eka Pada) and receive the glorious benefits without engaging balancing muscles that really have no place in the pose.
Are you picking up on a theme in the words above? Allow, let, receive — isn’t that so much more in line with the goal of yoga than forcing? Let it be easy, yo!
I’ve been really lucky to take classes with a number of truly excellent teachers, and you know what all the best teachers seem to have in common? They encourage the use of props — for their students of all levels. Even the strongest, bendiest yogi has days when they feel a little stiff, a little sore, or just want to take it a little easier, and props make it easy to adjust your practice from day to day.
So, let’s all give some props to our yoga props, shall we? I think they’ve more than earned it.
What are your thoughts on props? Do you have some feelings you need to get over, too? —Kristen