By Shahid Mishra
There was a time, when I was young, that I thought yoga props were for people who were in need of them. As a young Yoga teacher, I was indeed arrogant and my Guru asked me to work at the back of the class assisting, until I learned patience. Frustration filled me, but I remained with my Guru, Paulji for many years. He pointed my eyes toward the type of student who has improved his or her quality of life because props helped with mobility, disease, skeletal alignment, or gave this person self-confidence. I became a believer and now I see yoga props can help anyone.
Yoga offers benefits to a diverse student body, including babies, toddlers, children, and adults of all ages and abilities. One of the greatest things about yoga is that anyone can do it, anywhere, anytime. Yoga poses can easily be adapted to suit individual needs. One of the ways that students can modify poses is by using props. While many people enjoy the freedom of being able to practice yoga without a lot of fuss or equipment, others find that a few props can provide necessary support, and can aide in achieving more difficult postures. Props might include a mat, block, strap or belt, chair, or blanket.
The most common Yoga prop is probably a non-slip mat. They fold up easily, taking up minimal storage space. Mats allow yogis to get a good, firm hold with their feet while getting in and out of postures. They allow you to be confident in the posture, and be able to concentrate on proper form as opposed to worrying about sliding feet.
A wooden or foam block is helpful when working on poses that are a bit out of range due to specific ailments, age, or ability. The block encourages proper alignment, while taking some of the pressure and strain off of the muscles, which can keep fatigue at bay for a longer yoga session. Blocks allow people to get into poses they would otherwise not be able to. Many people often need a block for the first few times, and then as the muscles stretch and lengthen, they find they do not need it anymore.
Straps can also enable people to achieve poses they would otherwise not be able to achieve because their muscles can’t quite stretch that far without injury. Even for advanced yogis, straps can be used to push the stretch even further, achieving the maximum benefit from the pose.
Blankets can be rolled to support the back or knees in a number of different positions. It relieves any pain or discomfort, allowing people to focus on the pose, not the pain. A blanket at the end of class, while practicing corpse pose, can allow people to achieve total relaxation. As the body cools down after a vigorous work out, a blanket can keep some of that heat in, allowing people to focus on breathing and relaxing the entire body and mind.
The common thought among students is Yoga props prevent injuries, provide a form of scaffolding for students to work up to harder poses, and give students the confidence needed to progress in their yoga practice. However, my apprenticeship with Aura Wellness Center made me aware that props helped people in the therapeutic sense. Students who are handicapped, who were in serious automobile accidents, and who suffer from many different neurological disorders can practice Yoga with props. I am humbled when I see a person leave the wheelchair because of Yoga. When one elderly student gains significant mobility because of Chair Yoga that is a miracle.
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