There’s nothing like encountering a challenge and knowing you have a friend to call -- to listen as you talk it out, to remind you to breathe, and to assure you that everything is going to be okay. The support of friends can ease the challenging events and transitions we encounter in our lives.
What happens, though, when you meet a challenge in your yoga practice? It’s not like you can just tap your friend’s shoulder on the next mat and start talking out the tension you feel in your right side of triangle pose. And even though your teacher is approachable, she’s guiding the class and isn’t in your body as you meet and navigate your edge to confront physical, mental and energetic resistance. To find the support you need so you can reconnect with your conscious breath and move through a safe and effective practice, turn to props. They’re your best friends on the yoga mat.
One of my favorite benefits of using props is that they create space in the body where there is resistance so we can experience the intended benefit of the asana. Often times when there is muscular tension, a certain part of the body overcompensates for the region that is tight. This can result in injury to the over-stressed area and a loss of the benefit of the pose.
For example, many people have a difficult time interlacing their hands behind their back with straight arms. Therefore, when they attempt the classic c-clasp, as in Prasarita C and versions of Shalabasana, the chest collapses instead of opening and the upper back looses the benefit of strengthening.
In this situation, holding a strap wide enough between the hands so the arms can straighten allows the upper back to contract and the chest to open. The strap supports the student in expressing the bind in a way that is sustainable.
Straps, blocks, bolsters and blankets are great tools for yoga students at all levels of practice. The strap for c-clasp poses is just one example of the many ways props can support your practice and help you navigate with ease-- sustainably approaching the essence of what the postures have to offer.
So next time you get on your mat, be sure to have your props close by. Think of it like having your best friend on speed dial.
Jillian is a yogini based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She leads weekly public yoga classes for adults and specializes in yoga for kids and families. Her studies have led her to complete training with YogaWorks, Karma Kids and Yoga Playgrounds. Jillian feels blessed to practice and teach yoga and is particularly passionate about empowering her students with tools to navigate the modern world with ease.