Importance of Yoga Props
An example of this can be found at the beginning of a yoga class, when the individual is sitting in Sukhasana , or Easy Seated Pose. Most Westerners are not used to sitting on the ground, and when sitting on the ground with crossed legs, many find the knees sticking up higher than the hips. This puts strain on the hips and back, and becomes uncomfortable after a while. Using a bolster to ‘raise the floor’ makes a difference here – with hips and rear lifted, the knees sink down and the back can more easily be straightened. This can make a significant difference in the comfort level of a meditation session. Bolsters can also be used at the end of a class in Savasana, or Corpse Pose. Here, a bolster under the knees allows the back to stretch out, allowing someone with low back pain to comfortably stay in the pose for five or ten minutes.
Beyond bolsters, blankets can also be very helpful for seated poses. Properly folded, they allow the practitioner to pad the knees in kneeling positions. If a bolster is too high, a blanket can also be used when seated. Furthermore, a blanket can shield the body from drafts when in Savasana at the end of class.
Straps and blocks can be very important for those whose proportions differ from the norm. Blocks allow those with short arms to access seated twists more easily, and straps can be helpful for those with especially tight hamstrings. Beyond this, blocks can be used to access difficult standing positions such as Warrior III, where using a block below the hands takes away the balance problem and allows the practitioner to focus on raising the back leg to a ninety degree angle from the standing limb.
Blocks, blankets, and straps are also useful for restorative yoga, where the practitioner’s aim is to stay in a pose for an extended period of time without straining. In a supported bridge pose, for example, a block is put under the sacrum, allowing for a comfortable backbend that can be held. In a crowded class, a block will allow students to access ‘Legs Up the Wall’ pose, also known as Viparita Karani , without a wall – the block is placed under the sacrum and the legs are raised up to the sky.
Props are not just for the newcomer, nor do they suggest incompetence. On the contrary, props are useful at any stage of practice, and can make the difference between a yoga class that hurts and one that achieves its purpose – to work the body, relax the mind, and possibly prepare one for meditation. They are useful tools that should be part of every practitioner’s repertoire.
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