When going into a 200-hour yoga teacher training, you are already well aware of the transformative power of yoga. The practice goes beyond mere physical exercise; it delves into mindfulness, balance, and inner peace. However, have you considered the role yoga props can play in enhancing your practice? These supportive tools can bring a new dimension and experience to your yoga practice, allowing for deeper exploration and continuous learning on the mat. It’s easy as an experienced yoga practitioner to feel that if you need to use props then it makes you appear like a beginner. But don’t let the ego get in the way. There are many reasons why even after years of practice you still might reach for props. They allow you to access poses that you might not otherwise do due to body variation.
Regardless of how long anyone has practiced yoga, each one of us has a unique skeletal structure that determines how we can experience a pose. The length of bones, the shape of joints, and flexibility are different for everyone and ultimately determine our ability to get into shapes. By being open to using props in our practice we can often compensate for these differences. For example, if you want to do Dragon pose but you have very long shin bones and short arms you may not be able to get your hands onto the floor easily. By using blocks under your hands, you can increase the length of your arms to better match the length of your shin making the pose more accessible. Similarly, if you don’t have enough rotation in your shoulders when taking Cow Faced Arms if you introduce a strap you can experience the advantages of the pose. Using props is not about how experienced or advanced you are in your yoga practice, it’s about working with your unique body.
One of the most commonly used yoga props is of course the block! Due to their shape, a block can offer you three different heights. Blocks can provide stability and support in certain poses; create space, or provide an extension to gain arm length (think Half Moon pose). Whether you’re working on improving your unique alignment, building strength, or striving for greater flexibility during your YTT, yoga blocks can be a best friend to all yoga practitioners. They offer height and stability, enabling you to modify poses and find proper alignment when your body might not have the natural length, proportion, or rotation to get into a pose.
Similar to blocks, straps can help us find extensions such as in Cow Face arms, or Dancer pose if your arms can’t grab your back foot. In a forward fold, a strap can help you to increase the stretch along the hamstrings if you’re not able to hold your feet with your hands. When practicing yin yoga for a hectic world, straps are a really useful tool to help support arms or legs without the need for much physical engagement which is great if you are holding a pose for 3-5 minutes.
Blankets provide a soft, supportive surface that can be used in various ways to enhance your practice. Rolled up, they can be used as makeshift bolsters to support and elevate certain body parts. They can help create a curve in the lower back if you have a flat back or support your existing curve or they can be used to provide cushioning under sensitive joints like knees. In long-held yin yoga poses blankets are especially beneficial. They can also add comfort during seated meditation or pranayama (breathing) exercises either to sit on or cover yourself with. One pose in particular they can provide a lot of support in is the Snail pose. Often people will find there is too much pressure on their necks when they take their legs back over their heads. You can fold a blanket and place it under the top of the shoulders. It creates a space between the neck and the floor thereby releasing the pressure on the neck. In addition to their functional benefits, blankets also add a touch of coziness and warmth especially in Savasana if you want to create a comforting environment for you to fully relax.
Bolsters in yoga practice mainly provide comfort and support. They can also be used to add extra height if you want to get a deeper stretch or help tilt the pelvis in a forward fold if you have tight hamstrings. In an extended Child’s pose, you can place a bolster under your wrists and have more space to lower your shoulders down toward the floor thereby increasing the shoulder stretch. We all know how nice it is to place a bolster under the knees in Savasana to release the lower back. Bolsters can also be used to provide comfort in heart-opening poses. Some people feel vulnerable in reclining butterflies but placing a bolster on the chest that they can hug provides a sense of comfort and emotional protection. In yin yoga bolsters are the best prop to help support the body in long-held poses inviting greater release and a deeper stretch.
Incorporating yoga props into your practice and classes demonstrates to people in your classes that props are not for less experienced yoga students but are a way for them to get the most out of their practice and avoid unnecessary discomfort or strain and providing them with the tools they need to progress on their yoga journey. By making use of blocks, straps, blankets, and other props, you create an inclusive and accessible space for yogis of all levels. These props act as aids, guiding your students towards better alignment, deepening their stretches, and ultimately expanding their physical and mental boundaries.
If you’re thinking about doing yoga teacher training, don’t shy away from experimenting with different props and exploring their benefits. By doing so, you’ll not only enhance your own practice but also enrich the experiences of your future students. Remember, yoga is a lifelong journey of self-discovery and growth, and with the right props by your side during your YTT, the possibilities are endless to see how your practice can grow.