Yoga originated in India about 2000 years ago. Yoga was mainly for Indian boys and men to practice. However, this practice has gradually made its way into the Western world. Yoga is taught very differently now than 2000 years ago. This is mainly because of the way our bodies have changed over time. In this article I’d just like to break down some doubts that students might have about using yoga props. BKS Iyengar introduced props into the way he taught yoga. With props all practitioners, no matter their age or stage, can benefit from this wonderful practice.
Using props means I’m bad at yoga
The main doubt I feel a lot of students think is that ‘If a teachers gives me a prop then I’m ‘bad’ at yoga’. This certainly does not mean that you are ‘bad’ at yoga or that you’re cheating in some way. Props are there to help with alignment. They make the poses accessible for you and they allow the body to be fully supported within the pose. Props allow for sensory feedback where there might not have been any before. They help you to develop a deeper relationship with your body and increase your bodily awareness as you practice with them over time.
Use for a gentle practice
Props are a wonderful tool if you’re recovering from an injury and want to gently return to your yoga practice. You might also discover something about your body that you hadn’t realised before. For example, if you’re used to sitting in a chair most of the time, then your body might be challenged when you come to sit on a yoga mat. Try using a foam block (or several) between the feet and sit into hero pose. Notice how your posture changes, how you’re breathing differently and how the energy in your body is flowing.
Different types of props
As said above, foam blocks are brilliant for sitting poses as they encourage proper alignment and posture. Yoga bricks, I prefer cork bricks as they’re are stiff and are very useful for standing asana. Yoga belts are great for opening up hamstrings in both standing and seated asana. Blankets are very helpful for resting your forehead in child’s pose or for under the knee in kneeling poses. Finally, my favourite, the bolster. This is a must-have during a restorative practice as it supports the body fully and allows the body to open.
There are many props and thousands of poses in yoga. Utilise these, along with your teacher, in class and see not only your practise grow from strength to strength but also your relationship with and awareness of your body as well.