Do you have a love-hate relationship with props? Do they help or hinder your practice?
I’ve had teachers that will not allow them, and then I see highly respected teachers like David Garrigues encourage the use of them.
Check out this video. He has his student working on dropbacks. He has him use the wall, then a block, and then a prop to even tie behind his back!
Ok … so how do we know?
How do we know if we are cheating or deepening our practice?
SO hard to know, right?!?
I’m dedicated to how I was taught (the no props version), but there have been times I’ve rebelled and tried practicing with props.
I think I came up with my own Ashtanga(fied) solution for this, and here’s what I think.
First thing to remember: Everyone is different. This is SUPER SUPER important.
I certainly can’t pretend to know what YOU feel like in YOUR body (or mind for that matter)! I can only speak from my own experience.
Second thing to remember: Everything we do should be to deepen our practice. I mean this spiritually and physically.
I’ve had instances where using a prop really helped deepen my practice. I’ve also experienced certain props being completely restricting and limiting on learning a posture.
Examples of how I’ve deepened my practice with props:
A. Pasasana: When I roll up the mat to practice, so that I can rest my heels, I can really work on the twist to find out where I’m constricted, and deepen it. This gives me the opportunity to keep my balance so that I can create awareness in other areas.
B. When I do backbends with my hands against the wall, I’m able to deepen my backbend by seeing how far I could walk my feet in. This is an extra backbend I sometimes add in when I have extra energy.
These two examples above give me the opportunity to really isolate parts of my body, so that I could gain some awareness. Then, I can work on the posture without a prop later using the same awareness – and knowing exactly where to work. I also encourage my students to do this in specific postures when they’re practicing at home.
Example of how props have restricted my practice:
One posture I struggle with (big time) is Supta Kurmasana. I’ve tried using a towel between my hands with the objective of pulling the hands towards each other, but this is a complete hinderance. The act of my hands gripping the towel or strap change the dynamic in which my shoulders move. I am not able to move or open my shoulders. When my hands grasp the strap, it’s like they freeze. I’ve also seen that become a habit with people who can’t bind. They automatically grab for the strap vs. trying to open the chest and shoulders.
The purpose IS to open, and NOT just use a prop to mimic the posture. This would be an example where a prop DOES NOT deepen the practice.
Let’s Define Prop:
A prop can be anything, but when these items are used to create awareness and deepen our practice, they no longer become props. They’re only really props if you are dependent on them.
We just have to change our mindset about it. It’s like having a teacher guide you into a posture except this is just a physical object to assist you.
If you need to use a guide (not prop) to help you open and understand what’s going on in your body, or maybe to assist you through an injury, then do it! Make sure you’re always returning to normal practice, so you can put into practice what you learned.
Just don’t bring one of these into a Mysore shala! That might be a bad idea. At least discuss with your teacher first.
Your Homework (Yay, adult homework time!):
1. When you’re practicing at home this week, pay attention to the posture you’re struggling with the most. If you’ve been using a prop, I challenge you lose it and see how it changes your practice. Are you able to deepen the posture more without the prop?
If you haven’t been using props, I challenge you to find a way to use one with your most difficult posture to create more awareness and deepen your practice.
2. In the comments below, tell me how you’ve used props and your experience with them. Need advice, leave a comment!
3. Check out this page of props on Yoga Outlet. Are there any that you think would help deepen your practice? Tell me how!