Why do we use props in yoga?
If you’ve been to one of my classes you’ll probably be familiar with at least one or two. Yoga props should not be looked at as a sign of weakness or taking the easy option. Instead, they are a useful tool for a number of reasons and being open to experimenting and playing with props can in fact open up and elevate our practice at any level.
The purpose of every prop is to aid the body in achieving postures that may have previously felt inaccessible. They allow us to get deeper into stretches, take deeper variations of poses and find stillness in the mind and body.
The more you allow these tools to assist you, the sooner you may be able to attain certain goals in your practice and no longer need the assistance.
What types of props are out there?
Let’s have a look at the most common ones you will come across;
In this post we are going to look at yoga blocks.
My favourite and most used tool is the yoga block or brick. There are many options for using blocks and they can come in handy in every single practice. The idea of the block is essentially to bring the ground closer to you. This in turn helps us achieve the correct alignment which not only helps prevent injury, but also allows the body to open further, and perhaps stay in the pose for longer. The more we open up in postures, the greater the benefits.
Think of coming into a low lunge with hands down for support. If you struggle to reach the ground place a block under each hand. Instead of hunching over and compromising the posture to reach the mat, we have now created space for the body; the shoulders can release down the back, the spine can find length and the heart can lift and open. This then allows us to find that stillness, come back to our breath and sink deeper into the pose.
They are a valuable tool for improving flexibility! Try placing blocks under your heels or hands in downward-facing dog and see the difference it can make, or if you have tight hips, place a block under your sit bones in seated postures. The average block has three heights to it making it super versatile, so you can adjust as needed and track your progress.
Blocks help us find balance when we can’t reach the floor. In standing poses such as ardha chandrasana (half moon pose) and trikonasana (triangle pose) our balance is tested. If we can’t reach the mat to place a hand down then a well-positioned block can offer us that support without compromising our alignment.
We can also use blocks to deepen stretches. When placed under the body, for example beneath the head and the shoulder blades when lying on your back, the shoulders drape over the block and the chest can open. Because we are now supported by the blocks, the body can release and soften in the pose and we can take a more passive stretch. By doing this we take this stretch deeper into the muscles.
Another example would be a block placed under the hips in bridge pose. This can help us stay in this pose for longer and find that openness in the hips and length in the spine.
Even in more advanced poses like arm balances, blocks can offer us extra support in getting into that variation we’ve been striving towards.
We all have different body types and different needs when it comes to our yoga practice and luckily blocks come in various shapes and sizes to accommodate. You will also find them made from different materials, such as foam and cork, and various densities depending on the support you need.
There are so many ways we can bring blocks into our practice and if I were to recommend only one thing to add to your yoga toolbox it would be the humble block.