I’m a Yin yoga teacher, so it's no surprise that I love me some yoga props.
I always tell my students to think of props as the universe supporting them to go deeper, stretch longer and extend themselves further than they otherwise could – like a little bit of extra gravity.
It can be easy for the ego to get in the way though, and for us to resist the use of props (bolster cushions, blocks, straps and sometimes blankets) but such resistance is only separating us from the growth we could achieve, with just a little support.
Long-held Yin postures virtually always cue the use of props and it’s also worth using props in more dynamic sequences, even in strong standing postures when blocks may support balance and greater range.
You can prop your way into better alignment, longer holds, deeper openings and increased strength in your yoga asana practice. Here are a few ideas.
Utkatasana – Chair Pose
Use a block between the thighs. This is not to be nice, but to make sure you stick to alignment – no letting your knees sneak inwards (you know they do).
I tell my students to imagine they are parallel skiing and if their knees creep in, their skis will cross, they’ll be headed for a crash and it won’t be pretty. But still those knees are sneaky. A block keeps the knees in place, square over the top of the ankles and in alignment with the hips.
Hey, it’s also known as Awkward pose – it’s not meant to be comfortable. Enjoy that quad burn.
Trikonasana - Triangle Pose
Use a block to help the lower arm reach the floor. You will achieve better alignment this way, rather than crunching into your side waist and rounding your chest and shoulders forward.
This assistance will also help you to ground your back foot more effectively. You can also use a block in the revolved triangle variation (Parivrtta Trikonasana).
Also known as Extended Side Angle pose, all you have to do is simply practice this pose with your back body against a wall. The wall will certainly keep you honest and also provide support.
Uttananasa – Forward Fold
For an extended hold in this posture, gently lengthening the spine and opening up the back fascial lines, place a bolster cushion across the thighs and fold forward over the top of it.
Hold for 3 minutes, allowing the bolster to fall to the floor if and when it feels right. Feel that beautiful sense of all your worries falling away too.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) With a Partner
Place the strap around your hips and get your partner to take a hold and sit back down into a deep Chair. The weight of them pulling on the strap will help you get your heels to the mat and soften more deeply into the posture.
In this position, your partner will also get a work-out for their quads, glutes and lateral back muscles as they sit down in their Chair and hold you in place. Swap over of course – that’s what being a supportive yogi is all about.
Whip out the strap! Extend the strap close to its maximum length and loop one end around the ball of one foot and the other around the middle of the skull.
Make sure the buckle of the strap is in easy reaching distance so you can tighten the strap as your hamstring starts to soften.
Let the head be heavy in the strap and float off to a tropical island, swaying gently in a hammock, the warm sun caressing your face, a gentle breeze tickling your skin, a good book to read and a cheeky cocktail to drink. Ah bliss.
Before you know it your hamstring will be giving up some of its long-held tension. Swap legs of course to balance things out and don't forget to lengthen the strap again to begin the second side.
Use a blanket under your bottom. A blanket can give just a bit of support and comfort to help you maintain a strong and erect spine throughout your meditation practice.
The beauty of a blanket is that you can fold it to the height that suits the level of support and cushion you require.
So are you ready to crush on your props? Share with us your favorite ways of using props in your yoga practice!