“When I first started yoga I was reluctant to pick up the props. Somehow I felt that using them was a sign of weakness or a giveaway that somehow my practice was lacking.” – Mandy Scotney
These days, I hardly ever step onto my mat without at least two blocks. I’ve learnt that props are not a sign of weakness.
In fact the intelligent use of props has allowed me to develop a stronger practice. Most of our senior teachers at BodyMindLife cue them when teaching in studio and use them in their own practice too.
An advanced yogi is someone who is attuned to their body – who understands what it needs and then moves and responds. Instead of struggling in a pose, props allow us to move with more grace and feel the pose in a more aligned way. This is yoga.
A prop can open up a whole new aspect to your yoga practice. Blocks work to bring the floor closer to your body which allows for more stability. A strap makes your arms twice as long and a bolster is the most delicious way to take Savasana to another level!
Bringing these tools into your practice will help you move with more strength, freedom and greater mobility.
So, what are the main props and how should you use them?
Described by some teachers as ‘little rectangles of hope’, blocks can be used to bring the floor to you to assist with flexibility or to wake up areas of your body. They also help to reduce reach, access core stability and provide unique leverage in far-reaching forward bends. Blocks are very versatile and your body will love them.
A few ways to use them:
Try a block outside your front leg in poses like Trikonasana and side angle poses. This will give you a greater sense of length in your torso and openness across your collarbones. Remember there are three heights to a block so you can adjust as you need! In Trikonasana, block prevents you from hyperextending your front knee by pressing the hand onto the shin.
If you can hold your feet easily in Paschimottanasana or seated forward bend, try placing a block in front of your feet and take your hands around it for an even deeper forward fold!
Belts stabilize joints, support inflexible parts of the body and create traction and space—two magic words to relieve compression in the body. Straps will help take you into poses that for many of us are impossible – such as binds like Gomukasana or backbends like Natarajasana.
Tight hamstrings or sore lower back? A strap in Paschimottanasana is a must. This will allow you to forward fold, keeping a straight spine and maximising the benefit from the pose.
Somewhere between holding your foot and holding your knee in standing leg raise? Using a strap around the foot will give you the sensation of the full pose whilst maintaining proper alignment (an important note is when using a strap in any balance is that if you’re going to fall – release the strap!).
Bolsters and Blankets
Both are incredible tools to maximise relaxation and get more from your practice. Often used in Yin clases, a bolster or blanket give a greater sense of support and yielding for the body.
Bolsters literally do what they say – they bolster a part of the body in order to open, release, or support it!
Blankets in the heated classes can be a little warm, but you can substitute with a towel instead if you feel this way.
How to use them:
For tight hamstrings or sensitive lower backs try sitting on your towel or blanket (adjust the height by the number of folds) for your forward bends – e.g. Baddah Konasana, Upavista Konasana or Paschimottanasana.
A bloster under your knees in Savasana is delicious as is a blanket (or towel) under your head.
Supta Baddah Konasana with the bolster positioned from the lower back to the head, and a blanket or towel under your head, and arms stretched out wide, is deeply relaxing, and opens the heart space – great for those of us with tight upper backs.