When I first started practicing yoga I had no mat, and did not see the need for one. I used the rug on my living room floor and contorted through whatever video I had chosen for the day.
Years later, when I took my teacher training, I had a definite disdain for yoga props. Though I learned how to use them for form in practice, I had no idea how to use them to let go, to suspend my thoughts and release. Thickheaded as I can be, it took my students to show me the real benefits of my props.
I came to realize the benefit they had for me and my students, opening up the heart, releasing tension in the hips and legs, and allowing release and a flow of energy. I could use the prop continuously throughout the pose, or simply use it to establish alignment of a pose.
Practicing Without Yoga Props
Admittedly, there are still days that I love to practice without props. I feel unhindered and free and need to spend more time focusing myself than reaching for a prop that is never quite where I need it.
But without them, there are times when I haven’t quite reached my highest and deepest potential. I continue to learn the various and creative ways to use them, through experimentation and through working with other students and teachers.
Enhancing Your Practice
The blocks that support, lift, open the heart and bring the floor to you, the bolster that allows you to open in a reclined pose like Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle), blankets that can either weight the limbs or lift, pillows that draw you to a long seated spine for meditation... these are just a few in the arsenal.
They bring power to the practice; they bring a letting go to the spirit.
Like most aspects of yoga, props are metaphoric. They allow the body to open and lengthen, and from that you can open further, revealing truth without judgment. They allow you to look deep inside and see what you see. Even physically, the props are powerful. They're supportive, and help in lengthening muscles and ligaments for greater expansion.
Your props are your tools; there for you to use when you are ready. The props are there to serve and support, to let you expand and relax in your own time and to your own rhythm. So use them. Maybe not all the time, but when you could use a little extra support.
Do you use yoga props in your practice? What have you learned about your practice from using them? Share with the rest of the community in the comments below!