Your Best Yoga Manifesto: Props are Helpers not Hinderer's
When I decided that I wanted to start my own Yoga program, it wasn't just because I wanted to teach more. It was because I wanted to create a space and program that I could infuse with my own thoughts and values about practising Yoga. I feel like my manifesto for the Your Best Yoga program touches on each of the values that I hope to bring to the program and I want to spend some time "breaking down" each line of it for better understanding. Today we are at line 6 of the Manifesto - if you need to catch up here's part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4!
In my day (ie: non-Yoga) job we talk about adapting the environment to be a good fit for a person – for example you don’t expect a person in a wheelchair to navigate stairs, you build a ramp. I’d like to think that Yoga props are the environmental adaptation that some people need in order to enjoy a safe and effective practice. When I first started practising yoga I was attending studios that didn’t use or feature Yoga props prominently, so when I was first introduced to props I admittedly was a bit hesitant to use them. I wasn’t sure how to use them or really what they were for. Since learning how props can help support the body and provide access to correct alignment for people I would definitely consider myself a prop enthusiast, however, there are some people who still hesitate to use props as they feel like they are used as a “crutch” instead of a helper. In my experience, this doesn’t have to be the case.
When I am teaching a beginner class, if props are available, I will almost always show the pose using the prop. Why? Because props allow people to access poses in a safe and correct way that they may not be able to otherwise. I have seen many a collapsing Triangle pose, where the persons chest is facing the floor and they are trying to get their hand to the ground. By providing the block under their hand they are able to find the opening in the chest, keep the working in the legs and actually hold the shape of the pose for a few breaths. You aren’t losing out on anything or weakening your practice by using the prop, quite the opposite really. Correct alignment that allows you to open the body and access the breath is more important than “deeper” incorrect stretching, in my opinion. So I will always show the beginner Yogi how to use props, and hopefully the more they practice and the more open their body becomes, the less they may need the props – Virasana is a great example of this as people often start sitting on a high support when they’re quads are very tight and eventually they can sit on a small height or none at all as they lengthen their muscles. Alternatively, if the challenge in a pose is due to something like body proportion, they may always have to use a prop, which should certainly not be considered a hindrance or crutch.
Tell me, are you team "Yoga Props" or do you prefer not to use them in your practice??