Iyengar Yoga is sometimes known for its use of props – blocks, belts, walls, bolsters, ropes, trestles, straps, lions and tigers and bears OH MY !!!! And though they are, of course, one of the main reasons that Iyengar Yoga is accessible to MANY who would never be able to or even think of walking into a more common modern yoga class of fast flow and hot heat, they also can be a turn off to those who think they might make poses “easy”, “hinder” their progress, or “slow them down” in some way. And, even when we know and love Iyengar Yoga, there is always the danger of becoming prop obsessed.
Geeta Iyengar has given us 5 primary reasons to use props:
- Increased duration of staying in an asana – this provides time for the mind and consciousness to become aware of and alert to action in the body
- Increased confidence in the practitioner – if you are afraid to go upside down or afraid that your back will break in certain things, a prop gives you a temporary option to show you YOU CAN!!!
- Increased knowledge of accurate alignment – there is a lot of things we “think” or we tell ourselves we are doing until we use a prop – “my leg is straight” until I compare it to wall or floor, “my upper back is mobile” until I put it on a chair or blocks, etc…
- Increases range of motion – using a block in forward bends or standing poses makes space so the student does not feel “stuck” or “done” in a pose, gives some space to move consciousness into
- actual achievement of postures that might otherwise not be accessible – the backbenders and trestles are the best example of full size props that allow anyone to take a shape their body might not otherwise be able to get into on its own power and still achieve the results and benefits of the poses.
None of the above state that poses will be “easier”, in fact, most prop use will challenge a practitioner more…wake up dead muscles and brain cells. And none of the above suggest that you might be using that prop FOREVER! The prop is there to guide you toward an end that is self-supported…
I might add “fun” to the list of reasons to use a prop too, but we have to make sure that that “fun” also does not lead us toward distraction. “Fun” is still part of svadhyaya (self-study), but in the end, we need to make sure we are not only caught IN the “fun” but moving forward in our practice and understanding because of it.