One of my yoga teacher friends used to say: Yoga props are your friends, and it’s always good to have a friend by your side. I love that saying.
But some yogis are resistant and don’t use props. I have helpfully sorted them into categories. Which non-prop-using Yogi are you?
Yoga Newbies: The newest yogis often don’t understand props and what they can be used for. They can be forgiven for not grabbing a block on their way in to class.
Yoga Late for Class: The habitually late yogi always dashes in and slaps down her mat, anxious to join in the class, and usually without awareness that everyone else has a strap and a bolster.
Yoga Ego: Often one of the newbies who hasn’t learned to surrender the ego. This guy (because more often it’s a guy) thinks he doesn’t need a block. Everyone else can use them, but not him! He’s cool without one, thanks, but he can’t talk right now because he’s holding his breath to get through extended angle.
Yoga Stuck In Her Ways: This yogi has always done Triangle without the block, thanks, so don’t even try to suggest that she use a block today. Not comfortable with change, this one is.
Yoga Can’t Be Bothered: Ah, props are so much trouble! You get them and sometimes the teacher forgets to use them, and they get in the way, and it’s so crowded trying to get them back into the closet. Just fugeddaboudit.
Yoga Doing It “Right:” This yogi is so anxious to get everything right! She’s looking around, comparing herself to everyone else. Is this right? Does it look okay? Do I look like her? I’m not using a bolster unless she’s using a bolster, because using a prop means I’ve failed.
Yoga Cares What You Think: Usually found in the back corner, this yogi is concerned if she is the only one using a block. Oh no, what will everyone else think? Put it back, quick!
Yoga Been Doing This Awhile: Starts class with two blocks, a strap, a bolster, and a blanket. Because you just never know.
All joking aside, yoga props really are your best friends. Once you start using them to explore poses, you’ll probably never go back, just like me with pigeon pose. Adding a bolster under the hips during pigeon is one of the best things I ever did.
Now I should mention that certain types of yoga don’t use props, like Ashtanga, some power yoga, and Bikram or “standing sequence” yoga. The strict Ashtanga tradition is to keep working on one pose until you “get” it, then move on to the next pose, and no blocks or other props are offered. Some power yoga classes “flow” so quickly that by the time you get your block in place, the class has moved on. Bikram is an entirely different animal, and I’ve only practiced it once, and that was enough for me to know that it’s not for me, so I can’t speak to it.
Other types of yoga encourage props, like Iyengar. It can be hard to find a strict Iyengar class, though. I have been lucky enough to take a few in San Francisco, and I’m always amazed at how much I learn from spending half the class on one pose.
Then there’s yin and restorative yoga, which are all about the props. In yin yoga, there is no “holding” the pose; you are supported the whole time. In restorative yoga, the point is to relax and revive. Yin yoga works deep into the connective tissues and fascia. Both require you to stay in a pose for up to five minutes, fully supported with props.
I always encourage using props in my gentle and hatha classes, and even when I teach vinyasa.
How about you? Do you use props? Ever felt uncomfortable using (or not using) props? Let me know.