Thursday, September 5, 2013

To Prop Or Not To Prop?

Tuesday morning, there were only two of us in yoga class at the studio, and since both of students are also looking into advanced yoga studies and becoming teachers, Robin gave us a nice little impromptu workshop where we picked apart a few select poses and worked on ways to verbalize corrections.

It was an interesting session. The other student had way more flexibility than me, and where she could easily reach down and grab her toes in a pose like Triangle or bend all the way forward and touch her forehead to her shin in Pyramid, I required the use of blocks.

Which leads me to an interesting question for yoga students and teachers: to prop, or not to prop?

When it comes to using props, the first thing I think of is Iyengar, where props are used extensively to ensure precise alignment in the asanas. Sure, it's important to have proper alignment so that everything functions well, but at the same time, it seems to me that having to worry about all those props just takes some of the joy out of yoga. At least, for me, it does.

On the other hand, I know that when I use a block or a strap or even a bolster for certain asanas, I'm getting the most out of the pose because my body isn't able to go into the full expression.

And then on yet another hand (because some Hindu deities have four or six hands and several heads, dontcha know), there are practices like Ashtanga that don't allow the use of ANY props whatsoever!

What's a yogi Momma with tight hamstrings to do?

Well, like all things in yoga, the use of props is a highly personal choice, depending on your preferred style of yoga, your abilities, and even just how your body feels on any given day. That said, I don't think there's anything wrong with using a prop like a block or a blanket or a bolster in order to get the maximum benefit out of each asana. Or, if you prefer Ashtanga, use one of the variations of the pose in order to work your body and calm your mind.

For an effective practice, the goal should not be to reach your toes without bending your knees, but to become comfortable with your limitations and to learn how to practice kindness.

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