Paraphrasing a quote about yoga whose author is unknown, “Blessed be the flexible, for never shall they be bent out of shape.” Attaining that flexibility is often easier with the use of yoga props.
Yoga props are objects that help yoga practitioners strengthen, stretch, or balance the body as they move through the asanas, or poses in yoga. Props also help the body relax and assist with improving body alignment. There are many reasons for using them:
• Props often assist with our ability to extend our bodies beyond their previously known limits, showing that our bodies are capable of doing more than we think it can do.
• Yoga props can be used to make asanas and the various postures of yoga much more challenging, safely stretching the muscles further. They offer us the ability to expand and open in a pose that offers us a deeper and stronger connection with the pose.
• Props can be utilized for teaching our bodies certain actions that lengthen the spine and expand our chests.
• Props often make the postures involved with asanas safer and easier to acquire. They allow us to move beyond the stiffness that grips our bodies into poses we would not ordinarily be able to do when beginning yoga.
• They enable people with back, neck, and knee pain or pain from chronic injuries to begin the postures that will help them move beyond the pain.
• Props allow us to held poses longer than we would ordinarily be able to maintain them so that the healing effects of the postures can begin to work.
• They allow our muscles to lengthen and stretch in passive ways that are non-injurious and do not create additional pain.
• Props help us improve our blood circulation and our capacity for pranayama, or breathing techniques.
Different types of yoga props and what they are supposed to do
Supporting the body with props during a yoga session allows us to move further into our goal of a healthy mind, body and spirit. There are a wide variety of props available:
• Yoga mats are available in a wide variety of colors and materials. They provide a clean place to do floor work in a wide variety of places. Yoga mat rolls are great for yoga teachers to be able to provide yoga students with disposable mats for each session.
• Yoga towels for use on sweaty palms and feet to keep from slipping on the yoga mat, especially during hot sessions like Bikram.
• Yoga wedges are useful when practitioners do not have the flexibility to perform the more advanced asanas correctly. Made of lightweight foam, the yoga wedge provides both stability and support.
• Yoga blocks are great for beginners in helping to improve their confidence and comfort while they are performing challenging yoga positions. They are also a great aid for more advanced students of yoga. They are placed under your feet, hands or derriere to help with the alignment of the body. Yoga blocks can also be used advantageously for standing poses.
• Yoga bolsters are also helpful in extending flexibility. They may be shaped as cylinders or rectangles, and provide support to your spine, derriere, or legs. As foam rollers, they are available in more than one density for your comfort in using them.
• Yoga straps, eye pillows, zafus and zabuttons also have their uses in the practice of yoga.
Yoga props help with the practice of yoga by gently aiding the body to stretch beyond its tightness and into relaxation.