Unfortunately, many yoga enthusiasts never consider using props during their practice to help increase productivity. Some are simply unaware of the many benefits of using props while others associate using them with being a beginner. However, using yoga props has been shown to provide many benefits, such as providing a deeper sense of stability and alleviating any muscle strain. Here’s some of the benefits of practicing with props and why you should be using them to support your yoga poses.
Common Yoga Props
The most common props used in yoga classes generally include the following. However, different individuals can use a wide variety of objects as a prop to best optimize their practice. For instance, a dining table, chair, or small towel can all be used to assist in different yoga poses.
- Blocks: Blocks are made from materials like wood or thick foam, and come in a variety of different heights. Blocks especially help for individuals who are less flexible or need modifications by bringing the floor up to your hands. That way, instead of reaching to the floor, individuals can instead reach to the block for support.
- Straps: Straps are typically made from non-elastic nylon or cotton and can stretch anywhere between about six to ten feet. Similar to blocks, straps work to elongate your arms and legs to eliminate the uncomfortable “pulling” sensation and reduce the risk of injury.
- Bolsters: Bolsters are simply cushions that vary in shape and size. Typically, bolsters look like a big body pillow. They are especially helpful during restorative and yin poses, and can provide some relief, both mentally and physically, from uncomfortable poses that are held for a long period of time.
3 Benefits of Using Props During Yoga Practice
Using a prop for support during a yoga pose offers many benefits. Ultimately, it corrects poor alignment habits, helps to develop more strength and awareness, and allows for a deeper rejuvenation experience. While there are countless other benefits, here are the three main ones.
Props ensure proper alignment.
One of the most important parts of yoga is practicing good alignment. Yoga teaches your body positive postural habits, forcing your body to receive the full benefits of proper posture. However, often times, when a pose is uncomfortable, we tend to compensate by using stronger muscles to cover the weaker ones, compromising proper alignment and causing several subsequent misalignments. This can also teach your body bad postural habits during particular poses. Using a block, or other prop, to assist you in maintaining proper alignment reinforces positive habits, rather than negative ones, and even prevents injuries and muscle strains. For instance, while in a triangle pose, an individual can place their hand on a block to keep their spine long and rib cage open rather than collapsing through the chest while reaching for the ground. Or, while performing a standing forward fold, an individual can place their hand on two blocks rather than the ground to prevent the overstretching of the hamstrings while still maintaining proper alignment in the legs and spine. Doing so reduces the chances of straining a muscle and encourages proper alignment in more difficult poses.
Props allow for deeper rejuvenation.
Using props can create a sense of stability and protection, which then allows for deeper rejuvenation and relaxation. For example, when struggling to hold a pose, it becomes harder to focus, relax, and experience the rejuvenating effects. However, using a prop to provide stability or even assist in deepening the stretch, allows you to enjoy the full rejuvenation experience rather than focusing on the uncomfortableness of a pose. It provides additional support and encouragement to truly relax and receive the benefits of the pose.
Props provide more flexibility and freedom.
Ultimately, props allow you to do things you would not normally be able to do on your own, as well as build strength and increase flexibility while still doing a pose correctly. For instance, the best way to alleviate tight shoulders and acquire openness is to use a strap for assistance. Doing so helps to extend your arms while still shielding your shoulders from strain and potential injury, allowing for you to comfortably work towards loosening those muscles. Without using a strap, the ability to properly stretch particularly tight shoulders might be nearly impossible. As numerous yoga instructors say, props, when used correctly, can open many doors for new poses, flexibility, and strength. They provide more openness and freedom to safely work towards correctly accomplishing any pose.
2 Basic Poses with Props
As you are now aware of, practicing even the most basic yoga poses with a prop can deepen the stretch and increase the benefits. Here are just 2 examples of basic poses that when done with everyday props you have at home can provide a new sensation or more deeply rejuvenate your muscles.
- Downward-Facing Dog Pose with a Blanket. For this pose, place a folded blanket (or stack two) on the floor. Get into a regular downward-facing dog pose with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart, and rest your head on the blanket(s). Make sure the height of the blankets thoroughly supports your head. Hold for 1 to 3 minutes and then repeat the pose without the blanket. Notice the differences in the pose when your head is supported and when it is not.
- Child’s Pose with a Pillow. Child’s pose is a common favorite. But, it can be even better with a pillow. For this pose, simply place a fluffy pillow, or bolster, in front of you. Get into a regular child’s pose and let the pillow(s) support your chest. Place your arms on both sides of the pillow(s) and hold for 1 to 3 minutes. Notice the differences with and without the pillow. Do you feel more supported? Are you breathing more steadily or deeper with the pillow? Asking such questions when using a prop will help you gain more self-awareness.
Join Our Yoga Classes for Assistance with Using Props During Your Practice
Using props during your practice provides so many wonderful benefits, which is why our yoga classes in Smithfield, NC regularly offer a variety of props to make our practice as productive as possible. If you would like to know more about using props during your practice or would like to experience the rejuvenating effects of using props during our classes, call us today at 919-971-1431.