YOGA PROPS: MYTH VS. REALITY
As modern yoga has evolved, and along with it our understanding of healthy, individualized alignment, there is nothing that compliments a yoga practice better than the appropriate use of key props – ergonomic Yoga Eggs, bolsters, belts, and blankets to name a few.
So why is it that many students, regardless of experience on the mat, operate under the misconception that the use of props is a sign of straying from tradition or not having a strong enough practice? Hopefully, we as teachers can do our best to debunk this myth and reveal to our students, through instruction and example, that the best practice each of us can access is the one that most effectively supports our unique anatomy.
DIFFERENT BODIES, DIFFERENT NEEDS
A nice way to universalize using props in a class is to ask everyone – regardless of body size or experience level – to follow the same sequence with props as necessary companions, not optional supports.
Not all students (or teachers) have an anatomical design that will allow them to hold such anchor poses as Ardha Chandrasana, Utthita Parsvakonasana, or Trikonasana with their hand on the floor.
Let’s look at Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) for a moment. The level of one’s flexibility in the legs and hips is really the determining factor as to whether a student is able to keep his torso, pelvis and lower body in the same plane, or whether he falls too far forward in an effort to reach down.
Instead of cueing students to come right into the full variation of Trikonasana (and thus creating an opportunity for some to compromise their alignment while mimicking their neighbor), this useful exercise offers a way to enable students to realize organically just how much support (from a prop!) they might need to optimize this multi-faceted posture.
INGREDIENTS: 4 Namasteggs – Hard-Boiled or Medium Density
- Place 2 Eggs to the side of your mat to use later and hold one Egg in each hand. (Make sure the Eggs in your hands are Hard-Boiled if possible)
- Begin with your legs 3-4 feet apart in preparation for Trikonasana: Right leg turned out 90°, left foot turned in 15°. Front heel aligned with back arch.
- Bring your hands (with Eggs) to your hips.
- Engage in a few rounds of side-to-side ‘pelvic
clocking’ – essentially tipping the pelvis from right to left while keeping pelvis
and torso over the legs.
- This helps create proprioceptive awareness in the pelvis as well as gauge range of motion in the hips and hamstrings.
- Inhaling, extend your arms strongly to the sides, shoulder height.
- Exhaling, shift the pelvis to left (using the information you gained during the ‘clocking’ exercise to determine how far) while simultaneously shifting your torso to the right.
- Inhaling, reach your right arm over your front leg keeping your right ribs long.
- Exhaling, lower your right arm so the bottom tip of the Egg is on the floor and the curved side of the Egg is supported by the outer right shin (see photo).
- The upper tip of the Egg nestles into the heel/palm area of your hand.
- Press into the bottom Egg, rotating your lower ribs forward, spiraling your upper ribs back.
- Reach the top hand toward the ceiling, extending maximally in both directions.
- Look straight ahead or up toward the Egg in your lifted hand.
Now, it’s time to determine the amount of support that’s right for you
- If it feels like you can go deeper, slowly slide your hand down the outer curved side of the Egg.
- Stop when you can no longer descend without sacrificing the alignment of your hips over your legs.
the extra Eggs you set aside earlier to create a stable base of support for
your right hand.
- The top Egg should be placed curved side up
- The base Egg or Eggs are flat.
In this variation, each student’s Trikonasana is arrived at according to what the flexibility in their hips and legs will allow, not according to what they think the pose should look like. And each student hopefully discovers how props can offer a freeing extra level of support.
Now, set up the same way on the other side. Use all the same actions to determine if one side of the body is more mobile than the other. Once you ascertain your body’s capacity to stretch, be sure to use the same amount of support on both sides. Either do the less supple side for longer, or do it twice while doing the other once. You want to bring balance into the body over time. Once both sides are equally flexible, you may proceed to deepen the stretch in both directions.