I know, I know, in yoga, you’re meant to focus inwards, but in a recent class my focus drifted a little… I noticed quite a few students weren’t using props, even when it seemed that they’d benefit from them, and the teacher had given really great cues for how to use them.
For anyone not familiar with props in yoga, they’re basically anything that you use in your practice that isn’t your body, your mat, or the floor. Props include blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters and cushions, or pretty much anything else you feel like using, such as the wall.
I remember when I started “properly” practising yoga, and part of me felt that using a prop such as a block was a bit of a cop-out, or something only newbies used, like using stabilisers on a bike. I was determined to only use them when absolutely necessary, because my ego was running the show. Nowadays, my ego is usually still in charge but I’ve come to my senses with props at least. I now know that props are there to enable you to get the most out of your practice, not to compensate for some imagined deficiency in your abilities.
I also realise that in fact, the more developed your practice becomes, the more you tend towards using props, because you tune into your body and feel how intuitive it is to reach for blocks, straps or blankets. For example in extended side angle pose, you might naturally reach for a block because you know that helps you open your chest wider, lengthen your spine, and breathe more freely in the pose.
Whether it’s placing a bolster under your hip for support in pigeon pose, supporting yourself with a block to help match your arm length to leg length in half moon, coming into handstand against a wall, or using a strap to help you open into standing hand to big toe pose, there’s no cause be ashamed of using props. Good use of props means quite the opposite, it means you have a deeper connection to your body, a greater understanding of your practice, and a desire to make the most out of your time on the mat.
If I had any advice to give those students who weren’t using props, it would be to grab a block, stick a blanket under your bum and experiment with props. Sometimes they might not work for you, sometimes you might not even be sure if using one is beneficial or not, but given a bit of practice, props will help deepen and develop your practice, and you can tell your ego to stop worrying about looking like a newbie.