Using props in yoga practice


One of the poses I taught last week was Chatarunga Dhandasana with a strap, which I did a post on in February. You can read it here.

Most weeks I teach yoga I have a theme. It could be feet, twists, low back, balancing poses, groins, etc.
Whatever sequence I teach my classes for the week I am also practicing at home.
Many of the places I teach currently don’t have props. Which has been a good challenge for me as a teacher.
Last week I taught what I called props vs. no props.
I travel with a few blocks and straps and remind my students that they are welcome to use the blocks or straps during class. A couple of students have said to me over time that they don’t know how to use the props.
Huh, OK, that hadn’t occurred to me. This prompted a sequence for me to show my students how props can be used in various poses.
I don’t have enough props for everyone nor can I travel with 30 blocks and straps to every class I teach (sometimes I have more than 30 students and I have 22 blocks and 23 straps). But for last week I made it a priority to carry around 22 blocks and 23 straps, which aren’t heavy, just bulky. (I asked my students to bring any blocks and/or straps they may already own themselves.)
I feel that props are important in our yoga classes for a variety of reasons. Props support us, can be an extension of our bodies, help with proper alignment, can help to deepen a pose, can create a memory or experience in the body, can give us a different experience in our bodies, make certain poses accessible, can prevent injuries and help old injuries heal, keep us safe while protecting our bodies, among many other reasons we use props.

block strap

Last week’s sequence had my students (and myself) practicing poses with blocks and straps.

Because I feel that it is important to experience poses with props I was willing to carry props around for the week.
We practiced poses with a prop and without so the body could feel the difference. We used a block and a strap in our different poses.
We used a block and strap each. Normally I would love for all of my students to have two blocks and a strap (and a blanket and bolster). But we worked with what we had.
One of the poses I was excited to teach my students was Chatarunga Dhandasana with a strap. This pose is not accessible to many of us. When it is attempted most of the time it isn’t done correctly.  We used the strap to helps us make the pose accessible and also to support us.
We ran out of time both times I taught the sequence and couldn’t try everything. I joked that we should have props vs. no props Part 2. Many students after class on Saturday told me they really liked the class and would love to try it again. So in a month or two I will teach a sequel.
I absolutely love practicing and teaching Restorative Yoga, which can’t be done without props. For Restorative Yoga we need props: blankets, bolsters, blocks, among others to support us so that we can fully relax (both the body and the mind).
Props aren’t cheating. You aren’t weak for using them. I use various props when I practice yoga. I fully relax in Savasana when I use a bolster and blankets. I can get into proper alignment in Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) when I use a block. I can fully straighten my leg in Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose). Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon) is possible and accessible to me.
I gave my students a little bit of information about purchasing props, if they were so inclined. And I will share it with you:

  • Yoga Warehouse (where I buy my bulk props for teaching): Blocks (4-inch foam) starting at $7.95 and straps (plastic buckle 8 foot) starting at $9.95.
  • REI (where I have purchased props for my personal use): Blocks (4-inch foam) starting at $14.95 and straps (plastic buckle 8 foot) starting at $10.95.
  • Target (where I have purchased a few yoga accessories, but not blocks or straps): Blocks (4-inch foam) starting at $9.99 and straps (metal buckle 8 foot) starting at $8.99.