Many a wise yogi have said, "Using props is a sign of intelligence, not weakness".
If you are lucky enough to have access to props such as blocks, bolsters, blankets and straps for your yoga practice, then you are truly blessed. Props can enable you to access poses that may have previously been inaccessible, or unsafe in your body.
Props can help bring space to the body in a shape where without them you may have felt squished and blocked.
I love the shift that I see happening in yoga as we learn more about skeletal variations; there is now more importance placed on how the body feels in a shape instead of how a body looks in a pose.
In poses like Trikonasana (Triangle pose) or Parsvakonasana (Side angle pose) we often have the belief that if our hand touches the ground, we are somehow better yogis. In terms of alignment however, lower isn't always better. Our ego may feel better if we have our hand on the floor or touching our toes, but if it is at the expense of length through our spine, or clean long lines of energy through the body and most importantly the breath, then is it really worth it?
If you feel like a wet, hot mess in a pose, try the support of a prop, you might just have discovered a new found love in your yoga practice. Listen to the options your teachers give you and also listen to what feels right for your body; consider a block to rest your hand on in certain standing poses, a strap around the balls of the feet in seated forward folds, or even try sitting on the edge of a blanket or bolster to help give you more length in your spine and ease in your shape. The support of a bolster in almost any yin shape is heavenly to me.
In our yin balancing practices we're especially really looking for the body to melt into a shape, to let go of holding, and the support of props can really help to facilitate that release of the body and subsequently the mind.
One of my yoga idols Bernie Clark says, "We don't use our body to get into a pose; we use the pose to get into our body.”
Embrace your props, get into your body, and bring a little TLC onto your mat.
Written by Liz Hoare