By Faye Martins
Considering the many physical styles of Yoga, not to mention the diverse philosophies considering its practice, it is little wonder that there is controversy over the use of props. According to some purists, ancient Yogis never used props, and neither should modern ones. While opinions vary, mats are props and most Yoga instructors agree that props can be helpful. After all, most western contemporary Yoga enthusiasts do not spend long hours practicing in ashrams, these days. How many modern Yoga students would like to go back to the past and practice Yoga in dirt, mud or on grass?
A Yoga mat and any prop can be any object used to facilitate or extend a pose. When used effectively, props assist with relaxation, balance, support, and posture. Included are tools like blocks, belts, straps, chairs, walls, ropes, bolsters, blankets and non-skid mats. Just which props are beneficial and how they are best used is still open to debate, but a few guidelines help to simplify the process.
Benefits of Yoga Props
• Provide support, especially for beginners or practitioners with physical limitations
• Enable students to stay in poses longer, allowing the body to relax and release tension
• Yoga props allow practitioners to do difficult poses, without unnecessary strain or stretching to the point of injury
• Protect and strengthen weak muscles
• Prevent fatigue and prolong energy, especially in students with health issues or weaknesses
• Avoid new injuries and keep old ones from worsening
• Support body during weight-bearing exercises and help to prevent falls
• Ensure safety during inversions
• Lengthen the spine
While the use of Yoga props can be beneficial to everyone, the need for them may be reduced, as students gain balance, grow stronger, become more skillful, and are less prone to injury. Simple adjustments and creativity, such as changing the size of a bolster, the thickness of a blanket, or using a longer strap, can improve alignment and performance. Anything that relaxes the body and relieves tension also helps to extend the amount of time one can hold an asana and improve one’s flexibility.
Five Common Yoga Techniques that Benefit from Props
• Seated Meditation
• Triangle Pose
• Pigeon Pose
• Seated Forward Folds
• Bridge Pose
Yoga props can be as simple as blankets, mats, blocks, straps, and pillows or as sophisticated as finely crafted wooden benches and headstand specialty products. Whether designed to open the hips, support the back, or release the neck, a wide range of Yoga props in a variety of price ranges assures the well being and confidence of all Yoga practitioners.
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