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Friday, February 4, 2011

Props to Props!

I never really thought about props THIS much until I became a yoga instructor. Being a student myself it’s natural for me to walk into the yoga studio, place my mat on the floor, walk over and grab two blocks and a strap. Sometimes, depending on whose class I’m taking I might even grab a wedge board too. I don’t think I could get through my flow without these things. My body is different EVERY day. Some days I don’t have to use them, and other days I can’t let go of them. Do you use props? What are your thoughts on them? Blessing? Supportive? Training wheels? Security blanket?
As an instructor I have encourage the use of props during all my classes. In forward fold when my students can’t touch the ground with their hands, or in some restorative postures to aid in a deeper release. Either way I look at props being an asset rather than a peril; though some of my students don’t see it the same way, and refuse to use them. As I spoke to some of my students asking them why they thought props would hinder their practice, they told me they wanted to become more flexible and the props would be a roadblock for advancement.
I completely understood what they meant by this and really appreciated the fact that they wanted to move forward with their bodies and really see what they could achieve. I explained to them to look at props as a tool rather than a setback. Using them to get the full benefits of the pose from basic all the way to the advanced. It didn’t matter what stage you were at within your practice, props will always be the extra hand, assist and even pillow throughout your journey. I assured them that they would actually help them move forward with their practice and gain the flexibility they sought after quicker than without them. By using props you’re able to explore the deeper stretches, strengthen the muscles in balancing postures and even cross the threshold to more advance postures by taking baby steps with the props as your safety net.
When I look back at my own journey with yoga and using props I think of Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon. I always used a block on the highest side to prop my body to align myself with my extended leg. It made it easier to balance, and hold myself up there while in the pose. Without the thought of me falling over I was able to think more about the engagements of muscles, the spirals of my inner thighs, lengthening of my entire body and finally my gaze. It wasn’t until almost a year later I tried it without the blocks one day...after a few attempts, falls, and adjustments I was at the same place, but without the use of my blocks to support me. I felt a sense of greater accomplishment and ultimately a deeper sense of the pose. I was able to strengthen deeper muscles now and work on different goals within the same pose.
Have fun and try using props during your practice. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to your instructor like WHY you are using this prop in this way. Be creative with your props; find new ways to get the best possible release, stretch and ultimate relaxation during your practice. Most of all do what YOU feel works best for your body and enjoy EVERY minute of it!

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