Why props are your best friend...
Updated: Apr 8
Guiding students into Utthita Trikonasana (triangle pose) almost hurts me to watch.
At the start of the class, I always have a block at the front of the room to prompt the student to grab their own. If anybody asks what they need for class, I tell them a block. And when instructing, I cue and demonstrate with the aide of my best friend - the yoga block. So why when I move from demonstrating to hands-on assists do I only see one person using the dreaded block? I do all the things I can to introduce my best buddy to all of my students, yet, they resist. And the alignment that ensues makes me want to cry. Most students believe that they have to touch the floor or lean on their shin to fully express the pose. Unfortunately, the repeated improper alignment within yoga classes will eventually cause harm to the body. Like a credit card bent back and forth repeatedly, it will break. Similarly, this can happen to the body, more appropriately the poor sacroiliac joint in this case.
The stereotype I have encountered that poor blocks carry in the yoga world, is completely undeserved and incorrect. Of the thousands of students and teachers that I have taught, there is this deep, engrained opinion that props are bad. Welcome ego.
Beginners don’t want to use them props they are new to yoga and don’t want to draw attention to themselves, and advanced students don’t use them as they are often of the idea that props are for beginners. Yoga teachers don’t often include them in their classes as they were once beginners and advanced students themselves. So I am here today to help change your mind. Props are your best friend and here is why.
Iyengar Yoga uses props like most people use chocolate. Why? Because there is a benefit to experiencing the asanas (poses) in correct alignment. Remember that yoga in its original state was a way of life, it was not discovered in the middle age or for the treatment of injuries. Young men were taught early and their bodies took form through practice to allow them to experience chair pose with their thighs parallel with the floor or a forward fold with their head touching their shins. There is no benefit to Sally entering class with her aging, working body trying to force her way into an exact forward fold. Instead, she is creating possible injury, low self-esteem and preventing that actual thing from eventually unfolding for her.
Enter PROPS!!! Sally can experience the vast benefit of spinal elongation, folding at her pelvis, and actual hamstring stretch (as opposed to tensing) in forward fold without her head getting anywhere close to her shins, with the aid of her trusty old block. And though I have only spoken of the block in this article, there are a plethora of props available for practice. Just think of a restorative class. The mere use of props aides the muscles in relaxation and relieves the skeleton of its role in support. This allows the nervous system the ability to slow down its constant electric signals. When the nervous system slows down, the body is able to enter relaxation. When the body is relaxed, it is better able to heal itself. This natural process is often subdued by modern-day overstimulation. There is so much more to this conversation, yet all I want to do here is plant the seed. I encourage you to continue your research (as well as follow our blog because we will dig deeper here). Props are your best friend, and after 19 years of practice, I still use them all the time.
At Alpha Yoga School, we understand the benefit of using props and encompass them in our teacher trainings. We encourage students to experience them in their own practice, as well as in their teaching.
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