Yoga props come in all shapes and colors, and their use is encouraged and facilitated in most yoga classes. Beginners are benefitting from props to ease into various poses, and advanced students can get deeper into their practice as well.
So is there ever a time when you should say NO to yoga props?
May the force not be with you
When using props such as the belt, it can be tempting to pull yourself into a deeper pose. For example when the hamstrings feel tight and the belt is there to assist, one can easily pull a bit too much to get just that bit deeper into the pose. But when the body is not ready, we can do more damage by forcing ourselves into a pose than if we would allow the body to open up in its own time.
Stepping into the unknown
While props are great, sometimes they can provide an easy way out. Instead of feeling how the body is– instead of opening or strengthening parts of the body–we can lean too much on our props.
While a block can give you the extra length or balancing support you need in certain poses, it's good to sometimes try the poses without the blocks or other props. It's good to exercise our courage and balance by taking a chance, by wobbling, and by taking the risk of falling down (while being safe, of course).
Essentially, we are working towards a practice where we can achieve a certain pose without the use of a prop.
When you want to get to know your body
Trying poses without props allows us to get to know the body in a new way. We feel the body in the pose as it is naturally, and feel where we need to improve in order to experience the pose with ease.
We get to know what needs strengthening, lengthening or opening. Yoga poses essentially tell us where we are at this moment. We can go into a pose, observe how we are, take notice, and go back into the prep poses or other poses which would bring more strength or opening to the body. We might miss this subtle information when we use props.
When you want to get off the mat
Yoga mats are also props, although we tend to get quite attached to our pretty, colorful foundations, to the point where it gets challenging to think about yoga without a yoga mat. But try a standing sequence in the sand, or on the grass.
Sink your toes into the earth and enjoy the nature around you. Or take a break at work and do some yoga moves. Move your practice occasionally to wherever you are…the sky’s the limit!
As we try not to get attached to the various things in our lives–our possessions, achievements or yoga poses–we can try not to get too attached to the yoga props we use in our practice.
They can be wonderful aids, but we can also regularly experiment with life and practice without them.