In the recent boom of yoga selfies, we’ve been seeing endless amounts of “advanced” yoga poses: arm balances, inversions, and what sometimes seem to be inhuman feats of flexibility.
Sometimes we see “basic” poses like Warrior II or Triangle...but I think it’s safe to say what we don't ever see are the use of props with any of these poses. Blocks, blankets, straps, bolsters—you know, those piles of stuff you always see in the corner of your studio but assume you don't really need.
Advanced yogis don’t use yoga props...right?
Wrong. 'Advanced' yogis are the ones who embrace props in all their amazing glory and use them to shift their practice into a place they never thought it could go. What most people don't realize is that props can open up a whole new aspect to your yoga practice.
Blocks are the most amazing tools to bring the floor closer to your body. A strap makes your arms a hundred times longer, and a bolster is basically the most comfortable device ever created that will take your Savasana to whole new level.
Incorporating yoga props into your practice will give you the opportunity to access greater mobility, strength, and freedom across all types of poses.
The use of yoga props is not a sign of weakness in your practice.
Where things get murky is trying to undo the perception of props as a sign of weakness in your practice—a sign of needing help, or an inability to reach the floor, your foot, or your hand.
In reality, the ability to recognize when you need a prop, or better yet, when a teacher suggests it and you set your ego aside and take their advice, demonstrates an advanced level of body awareness and presence.
Knowing how to effectively use yoga props in your practice implies that you are in tune with how your body is moving and responding and that you're working to meet your body where it is—not forcing it to meet where you think it should be, or where a yoga selfie might pressure you to be.
Here are five ways yoga props can revolutionize your asana practice.
- Use blocks under your hands in Low Lunge to find greater lift and length in the spine.
- Place a block under your bottom hand in standing Half-Moon Pose to find more length and opening in the side body and to create greater stability.
- Loop a strap around the ball of your foot in Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose instead of craning your neck and shoulders to reach your toes, and find more release in the upper body and hamstrings.
- Begin your practice lying over a bolster with arms draping onto the floor for a gentle chest opener.
- During Savasana, place a bolster under your knees for a more gentle position for the low back, and cover your torso with a folded blanket to cultivate warmth and heaviness.
Yoga means many things to many people, but most will agree that body and self-awareness, ability to maintain presence, and self-compassion are at the top of the list. What usually isn't at the top of the list is mastering a Lotus Handstand.
So an advanced practice should be one that includes (but of course is not limited to) the ability to better recognize and cultivate those qualities of awareness and compassion—and using props to honor where your body is, is a great place to start.