To Prop or Not to Prop Your Asana
“It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self and intelligence” B.K.S Iyengar
Since the passing of B.K.S. Iyengar earlier this week many posts have been written about him on yoga websites. I am not going to say that I know too much about the man or his life. I have “Light On Yoga” sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read. That book is considered an absolute must read for yogis and I am sort of ashamed to admit I have only picked it up a few times. I also know that Iyengar is considered by many to be the man responsible for bringing Yoga to the Western world. I have watched you tube videos of him doing poses that are not only body bending but mind bending to me! No doubt he contributed a great deal to the world of Yoga and anyone who practices. One of the things that his form of yoga values deeply is alignment. Proper alignment in poses is very important. One way he stressed proper alignment was through the use of props (blocks, straps, blankets) to help lengthen and position your body correctly. Every studio I have ever done yoga in has a shelf or closet full of props. Some classes encourage their use more than others. My own relationship to props is iffy but I am coming around.
Early on in my practice I developed some weird idea that props were something that you really shouldn’t use unless it was absolutely necessary. Just try to get on without them. They were always there but don’t use them. I honestly can’t say where this notion came from. I am positive I never heard those words come out of any instructor’s mouth….and yet it got into my head. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started using blocks. I began by putting one under my sacrum when doing a form of legs up the wall (without the wall). It stayed at that until I started going to Monday night class where the instructor always uses blocks. We use them under are hands to do lunges and bend over straight leg in a form of pyramid pose. I occasionally use them for lunges but I always use them in pyramid pose. I find that since my hamstrings are often tight this really helps me get a good stretch that I can’t quite find without them.
Now that I have gotten warmed up to props I find that they have really helped my practice. Currently my favorite pose to work on is Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) I love this pose. When an instructor says to move into this asana I want to do a fist pump in the air and scream YES! It is a balancing pose where you are on one straight standing leg( let’s say the right side) with your right arm out several inches in front of right leg. Your left leg is straight out behind you. You turn so your hips and shoulders are stacked and you aim your chest up skyward. The left arm will eventually reach straight up to sky. It is a beautiful pose and it makes me feel so happy when I do it. When I introduced a block under my arm on the ground it changed the pose for me. Before I was unable get my chest and heart up to the sky. The block made me arm longer and I was able to turn my torso and get the length needed to expand my chest to the sky and look up. So great! There are many other poses I use blocks for now. I sit on them to lengthen my torso when sitting. Sometimes I put on in between my legs to “power them up” in poses. And anyone who has done a vinyasa with a block betwixt the legs knows that it adds a whole new dimension and dynamic to the sequence. Blocks are pretty great aids. I absolutely see their usefulness. They can enhance and open up many yogic possibilities. Grab one or two the next time you practice! Maybe next I will move onto straps….I bet they have some great stuff to teach me too!