By Faye Martins
Some schools, students, and teachers ask, “Why use Yoga props?” Considering the many physical styles of Yoga, not to mention the diverse philosophies considering its practice, it is little wonder that there is controversy over the use of props. According to some purists, ancient Yogis never used props, and neither should modern ones.
Useful and Helpful
While opinions vary, mats are props and most Yoga instructors agree that props can be helpful. After all, most contemporary Yoga enthusiasts do not spend long hours practicing in ashrams, these days. How many modern Yoga students would like to go back to the past and practice Yoga in dirt, mud, or grass? Truthfully, Yoga props can be useful and helpful, especially if you have difficulty with certain poses. Props can help you maintain proper alignment, support your body, and make Yoga more accessible. If you’re new to Yoga, props can help you feel more comfortable and safe while you’re learning the poses. If you have any injuries or medical conditions, props can help you modify the poses so that you can still practice safely.
Basics of Yoga Props
A Yoga mat and any prop can be any object used to facilitate or extend a pose. When used effectively, props assist with relaxation, balance, support, and posture. Included are tools like blocks, belts, straps, chairs, walls, ropes, bolsters, blankets, and non-skid mats. Just which props are beneficial and how they are best used is still open to debate, but a few guidelines help to simplify the process.
Benefits of Yoga Props
Yoga props can be extremely beneficial for both beginners and experienced yogis. For beginners, props can help with alignment and provide support while they are learning the poses. Experienced yogis can use props to deepen their practice and achieve new challenges. Props can also be used to modify poses to make them more accessible for people with injuries or other limitations.
Yoga props can provide support for practitioners with physical limitations. They can help you maintain proper alignment, prevent injuries, and deepen your practice. For example, a chair or a wall can be used to support your hands in Downward-Facing Dog or to provide extra stability. Yoga straps can be used to help you reach your feet in forward bends or to assist in holding poses for a longer period of time.
Indeed, props help students stay in poses for longer periods of time, which can help the body relax and release tension. For example, Yoga blocks can be used to support the hands or feet in a variety of poses. Yoga straps can be used to help lengthen the spine or support the legs in a standing pose. Blankets can be used to cushion the knees or provide support for the head and neck. Using Yoga props can help students get the most out of their practice by allowing them to stay in poses longer and experience deeper relaxation.
If you have muscle problems, Yoga props can help protect them from injury. For example, if you have a weak back, using a yoga strap can help support your spine while you stretch. Or, if you have weak wrists, using yoga blocks can help take some of the pressure off of them. By using props, you can also help strengthen weak muscles. For example, by using a chair or wall to support your weight in Downward Dog Pose, you can help build strength in your arms.
Support the Practitioner
Of course, Yoga props can help students prevent fatigue and prolong energy during their practice. For example, if a student has health issues, props can be used to support the student in poses that might otherwise be difficult or tiring. By using props, students can focus on their breath and alignment, rather than struggling to maintain a pose. This allows them to get the most out of their practice, and eventually build strength and improve their overall health.
Prevention and Maintenance
Anyone who has ever tried a yoga class knows that props are sometimes used. But why? It’s not to make the class more difficult, but actually the opposite. Props help you to avoid new injuries and keep old ones from worsening. For example, using four blocks under your forearms in Table Pose can help you avoid wrist pain. Ultimately, you avoid new injuries and keep old ones from worsening.
Comfortable and Confident
Props can be extremely helpful to any practitioner. They help support the body during weight-bearing exercises and can prevent falls. They can also be used to improve alignment and increase range of motion. Props can be a great way to help you feel more comfortable and confident in your practice. For example, using a wall behind your feet in Crow Pose can be the difference between successful practice or falling on your face.
Lengthen the Spine
One of the benefits of using yoga props is that they can help lengthen the spine. One example is the modified variation of the Downward-Facing Dog Pose, in the process of reaching out for a chair, the spine is allowed to decompress. This is especially helpful for people who suffer from back pain. The props can also help improve your balance and flexibility.
While the use of Yoga props can be beneficial to everyone, the need for them may be reduced, as students gain balance, grow stronger, become more skillful, and are less prone to injury. Simple adjustments and creativity, such as changing the size of a bolster, the thickness of a blanket, or using a longer strap, can improve alignment and performance. Anything that relaxes the body and relieves tension also helps to extend the amount of time one can hold an asana and improve one’s flexibility. Yet, there are still objections: “What are the benefits? and “Why use Yoga props?” Hopefully, we can finally get through to them.
Five Common Yoga Techniques that Benefit from Props
Seated Forward Folds
Why use Yoga props? Naturally, the experience of practicing a modified posture is a stepping stone for some. However, some students will continue to use props for life. Props can be as simple as blankets, mats, blocks, straps, and pillows or as sophisticated as finely crafted wooden benches and headstand specialty products. Whether designed to open the hips, support the back, or release the neck, a wide range of Yoga props in a variety of price ranges assures the well-being and confidence of all Yoga practitioners.
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