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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Finding Your Energetic Balance

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This month in my Hatha classes we’re working on balance.  Funny, since I am finding balance to be somewhat difficult to obtain these days.  Not physically, I actually have a rather good sense of balance (except when in Uttitha Hasta Padagustasana and scanning the class to see how my students are doing).

My lack of balance is more mental than anything.

I just feel like there are 1000 and one things I need/want to do in a day, and I can’t seem to resurrect my college-like, Cume Laude time management skills.  There are the things I need to do: toddler care, cleaning, errands, running a yoga business, yard work, cooking, etc.  There are the things I want to do: raise a smart/intelligent/godly daughter; home yoga practice; read God’s word; yoga blog; not just cooking but planning and prepping; cardio; write a novel; study anatomy; read for pleasure; scrapbook;  renovate my home; organize; etc; etc; etc.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! *pulls hair out*

“When you stand with your two feet on the ground, you will always keep your balance.” –Tao Te Ching

I giggled when I found the above quote while searching for some inspiration for my balancing practice. In yoga we often balance with only one foot on the ground, or maybe just our hands on the ground.  So how does this apply to yoga or to life?

In specific yoga asanas when we don’t have both feet on the ground, we can utilize other “feet.”  For example, our breath, core strength or imagining a flexed foot is pressing against the ground or wall are all stabilizers.  We can also use props, allowing these tools to become an extension of self.

Finding mental balance in this out of sorts world may not be so easy.  One place to begin keeping our “mental” feet on the ground is by letting go of our attachment to perfection.   Maybe letting go of our attachment to perfection means literally letting go of something or many things on our to-do list.  Or perhaps, it means letting go of what we need to achieve in a day.

“Don’t hold on too long, but don’t let go too soon.  Find a balance” –Morrie Swartz

For me, it’s time to take a deep breath and let go of my perfection while still holding on to my core values.  Even if I don’t balance everything perfectly every day, at least I can come to my mat or my breath or prayer and just let go.

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This post is super-awesome

awesomeLike any good blogger, once I’ve finished writing a post and before I hit publish, I list all my categories and tags, and check the boxes that need to be checked. One of those boxes, I kid you not, is “This post is super-awesome.”

Super-Awesome

This is an extremely hard title to live up to. What if I don’t have an inner Barney Stinson!? What if when I get sad, I just get sad, and I can’t be awesome instead?

I want to. I want to be awesome all the time. More than just being awesome, I want to believe I’m awesome so that even on those days I really am not that awesome, I can still feel awesome.

I want to check that box for every. single. post.

But am I really that person? Is it dishonest to check that box every time? What if I think the post is super awesome, but it’s not? Will somebody find out that I checked the box, when my post is not that awesome?

Perhaps I am reading into the box a little too much. Maybe it’s WordPress’s way of virtually high-fiving me for having posted at all; A little pat on the back for posting once every four months.

What if as soon as soon as I got out of bed in the morning I was met with a giant floating check box that said “This day will be super awesome”?  Maybe then, as soon as my feet hit my slippers, I’d be pepped up enough to tackle the day with an attitude of super awesomeness, even if I wasn’t really all that awesome all the time.

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(bring it back to yoga)

The consistency of my yoga practice isn’t all that awesome all the time. What with life, teaching, writing, baby, cleaning, it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a super-awesome practice when it does happen.

I roll out my mat, turn on some tunes, do some breathing, and get ready to strike a Down Dog. Baby cries. Let baby cry for one more minute. This is going to be the most awesome Down Dog ever.signiture copy copy