The Curvy Yogi Guide to Using Yoga Props

The formal definition of the word prop, when used as a noun, is: “A person or thing that is a major source of support or assistance.” When used as a verb, to prop is defined as: “Positioning something underneath (someone or something) for support.”

Me? Props are tools for accessibility and inclusivity.

In everyday life, ‘props’ can have a neutral or positive definition. In a yoga class, the word “prop” is used to criticize or denounce. Reaching for a yoga block is often viewed as an admission that you are “less than” in a class.

It’s assumed that if you use a prop, you aren’t a strong enough yoga practitioner to keep up on your own or that your asanas aren’t good enough to keep pace with the other students.

Yoga Props and the Attitude towards them

I have seen many teachers and students who avoid props because they believe that using them makes them less of a yoga practitioner. Even famous yoga teachers have tried to remove braces from my practice by suggesting that I would be better off without them.

Ironic that props are viewed negatively in yoga classes. One of the primary goals of yoga is to learn to listen to your body with compassion and skill.

Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar, as the first teacher, introduced props into our modern yoga practice. Iyengar knew how important it was to adapt the yoga practice for different body types. He, therefore, integrated props into the course as a means of support, resistance, and stability.

Yoga props can help you in your practice.

Props or yoga tools can help to equalize the body sizes, proportions, and abilities of students in our public classes. Braces help me access poses that are sometimes difficult for smaller bodies. My belly, butt, and breasts, or my three B’s, as I affectionately refer to them, can add extra challenges to my practice, making certain poses harder to achieve.

I can find freedom and space on my mat by using props. Props help me to hold my weight when I am in challenging postures. They also allow me to stretch further and explore deeper by extending my range of movement.

In my version of the ‘One-Legged Sage Pose’ (aka Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2), I use props to support me. By using a wall and a block, I can positively experience this pose rather than feeling frustrated that I might not be strong enough.

The Curvy Yogi Guide to Using Yoga Props

As a Yoga For All instructor and an abundant-bodied student of yoga, I have adopted many unique ways to integrate props into my practice. Try incorporating these suggestions to experience more freedom and ease in your practice.

Invest in your own set of yoga tools.

Begin with two blocks and a strap. Add a meditation cushion, a yoga towel, and a relaxation mat. The four tools in this set are versatile and make a great starting point for any yoga toolkit. It’s important to keep your tools and props on hand, as not all yoga classes will provide them.

Set up your tools at the top of your mat before the class begins

It will ensure that you have your tools within easy reach and at hand. It’s usually too late by the time you realize that you need a prop to grab it. By having your braces close by, you can avoid asking for them in the middle of the class. This can be a daunting experience.

Keep your props near you to get that extra boost without distractions.

Put your ego aside, and go for it.

Reframe your thinking about props and begin to see them as tools to enhance your practice rather than a hindrance to your success. Being the first to grab a support can encourage other students to do the same. Normalizing props can create a community atmosphere and eliminate the stigma of “not being enough.”

Try out different sizes, shapes, and styles.

Yoga blocks come in many sizes, styles, and shapes. Try out different sizes and see which one fits your body best. The blocks come in a variety of textures and materials. I am a larger person and prefer to work with denser, thicker blocks rather than the softer, more malleable ones.

The blocks made of wood or cork support my weight and do not buckle, collapse, or become soft. Soft foam blocks work well for poses that are restorative, like Butterfly and under the knees of Savasana.

The blocks are great for supporting your body, but they also help you lengthen your limbs because the partnerships bring the floor closer. Use blocks to add depth and resistance to poses such as Forward Fold.

Straps can be used to increase your range of motion and extend your reach.

Straps are particularly useful in poses such as Threading the Needle or binding your arms behind you in a Forward Fold pose or Extended Side Angle. Straps can be very helpful in creating a binding with thicker limbs.

Use the Wall to Create Resistance, Stability, and Playfulness

As a large-bodied yoga practitioner, I look for the corner of a class where I can have two walls to balance and support me. The wall gives a feeling of stability and safety, so beginners should practice closer to the wall.

The wall can be used to reduce the effort and weight required for a particular pose. It also increases comfort while holding a position for a long time. Use the wall for better alignment. As Patanjali states: “sthira sukha asanam”; the pose should be steady and easy.

Look for teachers who are dedicated to inclusive, accessible yoga classes

You can learn about props and how to move more easily in your yoga practice. Accessible yoga teachers are there to help you feel comfortable in your body and enjoy yoga without shame or judgment.

All bodies are equal and deserve to be treated with respect. Our bodies are like snowflakes. Our bodies are beautiful manifestations of the divine spirit, but they can also be challenging.

We must celebrate our uniqueness and the uniqueness of our asana practices in the spirit of unity.

Yoga tools remind us that everyone is welcome on the mat. Try using tools to explore your unique yoga practice and success, steadiness, and ease.

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