Yoga props are helpful tools to help suit a yoga practice to a particular individual. It is important to keep in mind that everyone has a different level of flexibility and strength and the use of props can help to move from poses to pose without injury or strain. By using props it becomes possible to find correct alignment while in a pose which facilitates strengthening and opening of the body so that in time the pose may be possible without the use of props.
Types of Yoga Props
Typical yoga props include blocks (foam or wood), straps, blankets and bolsters (a thick, rectangular pillow used mostly in restorative poses). A wall or folding chair also may be used occasionally. When practicing at home or somewhere props are not available, it is perfectly appropriate to substitute a stack of books for a block or a belt or tie in place of a yoga strap.
When to Use Yoga Props
Props are used so poses can be practiced safely and effectively. For example, when practicing a standing forward fold, if the fingertips do not come to the floor, place the hands-on blocks instead. For seated poses, propping the hips up on blankets and looping a strap around the balls of the feet instead of straining to reach the toes can make for a safer and more stable stretch. In general, if pain or strain is felt in a pose, it is imperative to come out of the pose and adjust, using props to effectively “lengthen” the arms or legs to make the pose more accessible.
How Props Help to Deepen a Yoga Practice
When the body is tight and is forced to move into a particular pose, strain is created and the body becomes set up for injury. By using props when needed that strain is avoided, as is the risk of injury. Using props also aids in finding proper alignment in poses, opening and strengthening the muscles of the body in a healthy way.
Without proper alignment in poses, the body tends to take the path of least resistance, moving the stretch of the pose into areas that are already flexible and avoiding the areas that are tight. A seated forward fold is a perfect example; if the hamstrings are not long enough for a person to touch their toes, the stretch will move into the lower back and cause strain. By holding a strap looped around the balls of the feet it is easier to keep the lower back long and move deeper into the hamstrings.
Every person has a different level of flexibility and strength. When moving through yoga poses it is important to work at a level appropriate to the individual and the use of props allows individuals to move in and out of poses safely and without strain or injury. The use of props helps work a pose in the way it was intended, to lengthen, stretch and strengthen the tight muscles in the body and create more space and ease throughout the body.