Beginner or Experienced, Yoga Props are an essential tool that help correct your postures. If one is struggling with balancing or stretching in the beginning of the practice, props give that subtle support that may boost the confidence level. On the other hand, if one is trying to ace the complex asanas, it may be difficult to do so initially without any support. Some people may also have physical limitation like stiff hip muscles, weak lower back, etc. which can restrict the practice of the asanas. Overall, yoga props are multipurpose tools which can be helpful for Yoga practitioners of any level.
Apart from Yoga Mats, common props used during Yoga are straps, blocks, and bolsters. Each prop has a different function depending on its use. A Yoga Strap is useful for opening tight muscles and providing support and alignment in certain postures. A Yoga Block is a brick-like tool used mainly for raising the height in an asana. It is often used as a support tool to enhance practice. A Yoga bolster is a firm cushion which again eases the practice for people suffering from pain or a physical ailment.
We all know what props are available to us but often we get confused on how to incorporate them in our practice. Here are a few productive and creative ways to hero the props in our practice.
1. Straps for Stretching in Naukasan and Shalabasan:
When the thigh muscles lack the strength and flexibility, it is important to take external support. For example, in Naukasan (Boat pose) it becomes challenging to hold the posture for more than 5 seconds. Using the straps to hold the legs will help hold the posture longer and strengthen the muscles at the same time. Similarly, with Shalabasan (Locust pose), the strap can be used to pull the legs against the gravity.
2. Yoga Blocks for Back Support:
Weak back is a common ailment, especially for older people. While practicing Yoga, major of the load is taken by our back. Even for asanas which are aimed at strengthening the back, support is required initially. Asanas like Matsyendra asana, Sethubandasana, Bhujangasana are aimed at strengthening different parts of the spinal cord. Placing Yoga blocks behind the back in these asanas can provide a firm support, easing the practice at the same time.
3. Chair for Warrior Pose:
Some asanas may look simple but can be difficult to perform, especially for people suffering with an injury. People with knee injury or pain may not be able to perform balancing poses like warrior pose. Best way to start is by taking support of a chair. Even for beginners, it is a good way to start practicing balancing poses.
4. Yoga blocks for Restorative Yoga:
Yoga is about overall healing of the mind, body, and soul. Restorative Yoga specifically focuses on passive stretching that helps one relax through postures. You may hold a posture for an extended period but with the help of a prop. This is the best way for your body to experience deep stretching and to calm the mind. Some of the Restorative Yoga asanas are Paschimotanasan, Matsyendrasan, and Viprit Karni. The use of props is a must for all these asanas in this form of Yoga. For example, in Matsyendrasan, blocks or blankets are placed below the head so that the head does not touch the ground. Similar usage of props can be done in Paschimotanasan. In Viprit Karni (legs up the wall), wall support is a must. It is a healing posture especially for people suffering from varicose veins or swollen ankles.
5. Prenatal Yoga with Props:
Prenatal Yoga is not just a trend but has become a must for all pregnant women. It ensures smooth pregnancy and facilitates natural childbirth. However, it is a little different than regular Yoga. It is modified and designed to be practiced by women at different stages of their pregnancy. Using props is the safest way to practice Yoga during this time. For example, for all forward bending asanas a Yoga Block may be used to help pregnant woman touch the ground with their palms. Similarly, for Mandukasana, a bolster may be used to bend forward. For trikonasan as well, a Yoga block comes handy as deep stretches become a little difficult during the time of pregnancy.
6. Yoga Straps for Partner Yoga:
There is no limit to how much one can achieve in Yoga. Use of props and partners deepens the practice and helps achieve what usually cannot be achieved while practicing solo. Flexibility and strength are two areas which are boosted during partner Yoga. Additionally, using straps or blocks can multiply the effects of this.
7. Props for Inversions and Backbends:
Headstand (sirshasan) or Backbend (Chakrasan) are advanced postures which cannot be exceled in a day or two. Along with dedication and practice, it requires initial support for correct alignment and balance. Unless your core is strong enough, sirshasan without a wall support is impossible. Similarly, for Chakrasan, the back needs to be strong to support the entire body weight. Taking the help of blocks can help initially. Gradually, as the body becomes stronger, you can do away with the props.
8. Blankets and Bolsters for Safety:
One important factor which should never be overlooked while practicing Yoga is ‘safety’. Especially while practicing asanas which require skilful balancing and twisting. Folding a thick blanket and using it as a support under the head for headstand reduces the chances of neck and shoulder injury. It also provides the extra cushioning required for the hand and head. Crow pose (bakasan) is a challenge that is all about balancing the weight on the arms. A slight miscalculation can lead to your face crashing against the ground. A folded blanket or a bolster in front of you can provide the much-required safety net in this situation.
9. Props for Comfort in Sitting Postures:
Finally, props can also help with relaxation and comfort which is the eventual goal of Yoga. Sitting in Vajrasan for hours or practicing meditation for a long duration becomes tricky if one feels uncomfortable. Folded blankets or bolsters under the legs or behind the back can make a tremendous difference.
There are endless ways of using Yoga props which can help you positively. Share your experiences and tell us some creative ways to use the props.