Through yoga practice, I have grown to understand that every body is different. And to accept that my own body is different from others. Some poses are more accessible to some, and some are less accessible to some. Some have longer limbs, some have bendier backs, whatever, you name it. Every body is different. Yes, I still do look in awe at people who can do the perfect wheel, or hold their pincha, and I still do hope that I can do that one day.
But for now, to achieve that besides consistent practice, and getting that fear out of my head during inversions, I do require some sort of support or aid. Especially right now with home practice being so common during this unprecedented pandemic where virtual classes are prevalent, and there’s no physical adjustments in classes, yoga props have become my best friends.
Yoga props are good supporting tools for beginners, and help provide modifications to your asanas. They make poses accessible, in alignment of your poses, or help to deepen certain poses. Using props allow you to find stability and space in your asanas, increase body awareness, and explore body alignment comfortably.
Some students may resist using props as they have the mindset that using a prop shouts out “I am not good enough, not flexible enough for yoga”. I too, was once shy to grab that block.
Instead of viewing it like trainee wheels on the bicycle when you are trying to learn how to cycle, how about viewing it as an aid to help you get the right amount of stretch at the right muscles, so that you can be in a correct posture without overextending or straining your muscles. Most importantly, with props, you can lower the chances of getting injured, and avoid worsening old injuries.
Sharing with you some of the props that I have tried in my own practice: Blocks, blankets, straps, wall
Most common prop seen during yoga practice, comes in different colours or materials (cork, foam).
You can see them as “floor raisers” and can be used to support different parts of the body while in asanas, especially so that you do not compensate or overstretch muscles.Some examples of using blocks during my practice:
(i) Sun salutations on blocks to assist jump throughs
(ii) Blocks under hands to support if unable to reach floor when doing Parivrtta Parsvakonasana, Parivrtta Trikonasana, Prasarita Padottanasana
(iii) Blocks to support lower back in bridge pose – It is really comfy 🙂
(iv) Stepping on blocks to lift legs to a higher position for crow pose, or supporting the head in crow pose, especially if you have fear of face-planting, like myself
(v) Raise pelvis and hips to help the spine lengthen in seated poses and seated forward folds
(vi) Sitting on blocks during meditation, or resting head on block in child’s pose
These can be thought as arm lengtheners – especially when shoulders have not enough flexibility to allow hands to meet at the back or reach as far as the feet. Example of poses are like Gomukhasana.My favourite is to use the strap to open my tight shoulders i.e. flossing of shoulders
(a) Sit on heels, grip strap wider than shoulders
(b) Inhale bring the strap overhead from back
(c) Exhale lower strap in front of you
Straps can also be used to ensure that legs are kept together in reclined hero pose, or arms are correct shoulder width apart in forearm stand.
- Yoga Bolster/ Blankets
These are usually used in restorative yoga classes to provide additional comfort and ease in the pose, or in yin yoga, for you to stay in the pose for a longer period of time (usually 4 minutes per pose). These props help your stiff muscles to relax and reduce tension in them.
Examples of using bolsters or blankets are in supported bridge pose, supported reclined hero pose, or even Savasana.
In my opinion, the wall is the most under-rated yoga prop. It is free (you can find it in almost anywhere), and really useful in attaining alignment, deepening some poses and ensuring safety during inversions e.g. headstand, handstands, forearm stands.
Examples of how I have tried including wall in my practice
(i) Half split – Deepen hamstring stretch (It hurts so bad for me ><)
(ii) Alignment for Trikonasana, Parivrtta Parsvakonasana, Parivrtta Trikonasana by ensuring right chest opening and the right stretch
(iii) Uttanasana – Deepening stretch by folding with back against the wall
(iv) Build strength in order to achieve handstands e.g. do inverted L against wall
(v) Safety by ensuring you don’t fall over in inversions if you don’t have someone to spot you
(vi) King Pigeon pose – Deepen quad stretch
Other useful ways to utilize the wall as a prop are like using the wall to aid dropback, wheel pose, doing shoulder openers like puppy dog on the wall, deepen back bends through placing chest on the wall while doing sphinx pose.
And when you are finally able to attain the pose or when you are more aware of your body limits, try to reduce reliance on the props. With right use of yoga props, you may find your poses improving and get to deepen your yoga practice. For example, reducing reliance on the wall when doing headstands so that you can be aware which of the muscles have to be engaged while in inversion, i.e. move away from the wall occasionally to learn to engage core muscles to lift legs in the air.
Hope that this post will give you the courage to pick up that block, or strap, during your practice whenever you feel your body needs it, because every body is different!
Let us love our bodies and admire all the great things we can do with it 🙂