Props: An Extension of Self

My name is Shawnee.  I am a Yoga Teacher.  And I use props.

Gasp!  Oh, don’t worry your pretty little head m’dear…

I don’t just use props in my classes.  I use props in my own practice too.  Props are wonderful!  I love blocks, straps, chairs, walls, bolsters, sandbags… if it has the potential to be a prop, I’ll use it!

However, many students don’t feel as passionately about props as I do.  In many yoga classes props have become a tell-tale sign for the physically weak, for the less stretchy, or for the faint of heart…

Pfft. *rolls eyes*Puh-lease!

Obviously, I disagree.

Before reading on, make a mental note of the reasons to use props.  Go on…

Here are the most likely reasons for using props:

1.) Because a student is less flexible.

2.) I dunno, because the teacher said so?

3.) To avoid injury.

Yes, yes, yes. All very valid reasons (btw, because “the teacher said so” is a VERY valid reason).  But I would also like to offer up reason # 4 and #5…

4.) Because props are fun.

5.) To experience the pose.

Take Tkonasana (Triangle) as an example.  Time and time again, I tell students to use a block behind the outside of their front ankle, dropping their hand onto the block.  Why?  Because I said so? Well, yes, but also because I know when my student doesn’t use the block, the head of their humerous (the top of the upper arm bone) will drift towards the ground, making their heart center collapse, and their ribs round up towards the ceiling.  Not very often do I see a student who is totally open in this pose.  That’s why I tell students to use the block.

Not just to avoid injury, or because the student has tight shoulders, but so the student can experience the pose — so the student can experience an open heart and a lengthening spine.

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Recently in my own practice I used a block in Mermaid Pose and a strap in King Dancer Pose.  The block took pressure off my achy knees so I could more gracefully come into a backbend and reach my foot towards my head.  In King Dancer Pose, the strap helped me bring my arms over head.

The props became an extension of myself.  The block became my sitting bones and the strap became my arms.  I could not experience these poses otherwise.

So I challenge you, rather than feel weak and feeble when you use props, feel strong, proud and accomplished.  Let yourself feel a sense of “I did it!”

And as your teacher places a block behind your front ankle in Triangle, open your heart with grace and extend your loving energy through your block, allowing it become an extension of self. signiture copy

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Comments

  1. Glen Fielding says:

    Hi, Shawnee-

    What an affirming, inviting way for students (and the rest of us) to think of props. Your examples and photos brought the message home with warmth and a delightful personal touch. Hats off to you!

    With appreciation,

    Glen

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