Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blankets and Bolsters and Blocks, Oh My!

Sometimes new students come into a class thinking that "props" is a dirty word! I, like many yoga neophytes, assumed in my first class that only people who didn't know what they were doing used the props. Being self conscious, I didn't want people to know that I was new to the practice, so I ignored the teacher's verbal cues to use a block under my bottom hand for support in Extended Triangle Pose or sit on the edge of a blanket while seated in meditation. I was so focused on what I thought I was "supposed" to look like in these poses that I was struggling to stay in triangle pose and was uncomfortable while seated. I was unable to realize that it was the people around me who had been practicing for a while who were taking advantage of the props! They knew that using props could deepen their poses and keep their practice safe. It wasn't until a teacher explained to me how to use props to improve my practice that I learned how a prop can be a yogi's best fried!

Some of the more common props you may run into in a class and a few of their applications:

Bolsters: Can be rounded or rectangular. Usually long enough to rest your entire torso on. Great for sitting on in meditation or any restorative poses.. Bolsters can gently help you open your chest by placing one along your spine in Savasana or allow you to sink deeper into a hip opener by placing one under your front knee in Pigeon.

Blankets: Perfect folded up to sit on the edge in Easy Pose during meditation. You can fold a blanket beneath your shoulder to create padding and add space for the neck during Shoulder Stand. Blankets can also be rolled up and used as neck support or cover you during savasana.

Blocks: Come in a variety of sizes and materials. Blocks can give you more balance by placing one under your bottom hand in Half Moon Pose or elevate and support your hips when placed under the sacrum in Bridge Pose. Interested in using the block for strengthening? Squeeze it between your legs in bridge pose instead!

Eye bags: Small bags, sometimes scented. Usually filled with rice or sand. Savasana is one of, if not the, most important poses in our practice. It can be very difficult for people to truly relax and eye bags are a great tool to use to block out the world and make the most of our precious savasana.

Straps: Long straps usually with either a plastic buckle or a D-ring buckle. The buckles can help secure the strap in certain poses, for instance, secured around your knees in Legs Up the Wall. Having trouble reaching your feet in twists? Just loop a strap around your foot and hold the ends to get the same benefits of the pose.

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