By Tara Koenig, Inner Fire Luminary
I’ve been teaching yoga now for about two years, practicing seriously for three. Something I always come to my mat with is two blocks and a strap. All (three) of my teacher trainings have had props as mandatory items to bring to each practice. Props can lengthen your limbs, bring the floor closer to where you need it and wake up new muscles creating a new awareness. I had a completely awakening experience when we had to hold a block and use it as our drishti (focal point) for an entire 90-minute class. I like to think of props as tools that empower and enhance my practice. That being said, I still feel there is a stigma attached to using props in class. I feel that some students attach a mentality that props are only for beginners or a crutch. This is totally untrue!
Earlier this summer I had a broken hand and my doctors said no yoga for a few weeks. Being as stubborn as I am I was in class the next day, in my cast, using props to replace my hand. I was able to modify and fit the practice to my needs by embracing props and using them to my advantage. Yoga is a beautiful practice that is meant for everybody with any body, the key is to take what you have available and use it to your advantage.
Here are my favourite ways to incorporate props into your practice:
- Squeeze a block between your upper thighs for Sun Salutations. Having to remind my legs to hug in towards my centre line right at the beginning of a practice sets me up for the rest of class.
- Use a block under your standing foot for balancing work. A safe place to start is in tree pose. I find I really wake up the underside of my foot and fire up the tiny stabilizer muscles I wouldn’t normally feel balancing on the ground. Check in to see if you are relying on gripping the block with your toes and really connect to the four corners of your feet. In this case the softer the block the more fire you will feel. (Fire is a good thing!)
- Use a strap for dancers pose. I have been working on king dancers for the last few months and my work is to open my shoulders to safely find the bind. I feel that by strapping up my foot and walking my hands down to reach for my toes I have way more control with what is happening within my shoulder girdle.
- Use a block under your hands in standing postures. Depending on the size of your block your arms are now 3-5 inches longer! Twisted triangle is my personal favourite. So often I see students loose the integration of their spine to reach the ground. Slip a block under your hand and you can discover more length in the pose to assist you in deepening your twist.
- Use an eye pillow for savasana. The studio I primarily practice at has big windows. While I enjoy the spectacular mountain views, I find it hard to completely shut off at the end of class, especially on a sunny day. Having complete darkness and gentle pressure on my eyes helps me to fully release into the pose.