Benefits and Usage of Props Yoga
Props can be used for many reasons in our yoga practice. They have the capacity to transform poses and to add endless interest to a regular practice. Yet, there is confusion around what we do with them. Also, a common misunderstanding that if we’re using a prop, it’s because we’re struggling with the postures, it can spin us into the mindset that we’re ‘not good enough, flexible enough, strong enough’ to practise yoga.
To end some of the myths circulating these objects, we want to introduce you to the wonderful world of props!
So first things first, why do we use props? Here is a quick run down on some of the most common reasons why we could reach for the prop cupboard.
- Restorative yoga is a wonderful practice that uses a wide range of props to support the body to come into a state of relaxation. The clever use of props can help to stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system – responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ responses in the body. If you want to see props used as an art form, I highly suggest going to a restorative class – prepare to be inspired.
- Props can be used to ‘raise the floor’. Depending on many factors including the length of our limbs and flexibility – raising the floor can be a helpful way to keep our integrity in the pose we’re exploring without compromising.
- To provide more comfort or easefulness. We’ve all been there (or seen it!), a pose that for whatever reason just doesn’t feel good – we’re in discomfort and wondering if yoga is ‘for us’. This might have something to do with our bone structure, for example how our femur heads are orientated within our hip sockets – something that no amount of yoga is going to change! With just a little support, we could experience poses that appear inaccessible to us or open up the possibilities of a pose that we’ve felt ‘stuck’ in.
With so many props available, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are some of our most-loved and top tips on how to work with them…
A belt can be used in many different ways. Unlike a resistance band, they are sturdy and they vary in length and thickness. They can be used as extensions of the limbs and provide a supportive framework to explore asana. If you’re using a belt in an active way, be mindful of the tendency to ‘pull’ the body. We also often grip them very tightly which can invite tension into the neck and shoulders. Whatever pose you’re exploring, try to hold the belt with a soft grip, keeping the neck and shoulders relaxed.
Start with this version of a downward facing dog. It’s a wonderful way to explore lengthening the spine without the same amount of weight bearing in a traditional dog. See if you can work on finding axial extension (a flat spine) and a relationship between the crown of your head and tailbone. Bend your knees as much as you need to, to maintain this integrity in your spine.
Blocks / Bricks
Blocks and bricks are probably the most common props across the board. Blocks are flatter and wider in shape. Bricks are exactly that – brick like in shape! Bricks are a great way of ‘raising the floor’ and can be used lengthways or on their shorter edge, depending on what you need.
Blocks are brilliant for most seated poses. They can raise the pelvis and depending on how you sit on them they can encourage the pelvis to tilt forwards which can help the spine to lengthen and make sitting upright feel more accessible. Another example of using them is in a supported bridge pose as per below. This could be done with 2 or 3 blocks and is a lovely way of exploring a supported backbend. The wide flat blocks are perfect for supporting the pelvis. To do this, have your blocks close by, lift up into a bridge and then slide the blocks underneath you
Whatever prop you’re using or being offered, be mindful that it needs to feel good and helpful. If you have any questions, get in touch – we would love to hear from you!