Should I Practice Yoga With or Without Props?
One yoga myth that you might have come across or even thought yourself is that props are only for beginners. Although the use of props can be helpful for beginners, that’s certainly not the only time that you can explore or benefit from using props.
The main reason for this is because the use of yoga props or equipment won’t always result in a yoga pose becoming easier. Also yoga props are useful to cultivate an increase in flexibility, strength, and balance in beginner, intermediate, and advanced level yoga postures.
The use of yoga props can vary immensely depending on the style of yoga that you’re practicing. You will find less props in flowing classes like ashtanga and vinyasa, and more props in slower classes like hatha and restorative.
No matter what style of yoga you’re practicing you will find that there are many benefits in learning how to practice yoga both with the use of props and without them.
What Are Yoga Props? And Why Use Them?
Yoga props are equipment that you can use to enhance your yoga practice by helping you modify a specific yoga posture.
Props can be helpful to improve your technique and alignment in a given yoga posture. They can be used in both active and passive yoga poses as a way to better adapt a yoga pose to your bodies needs while working on flexibility, strength, balance, and relaxation.
As you begin to learn different yoga poses it can be helpful to also learn different variations of the yoga poses with props. This can help you understand and approach the postures with an improved sense of alignment and proprioception.
On the other hand you will find that the more props you start to use in your yoga practice the harder it will be to keep your practice flowing and focus on your breath.
Therefore, it can be useful if you can learn to practice sometimes with props and sometimes without props.
This will allow you to use the yoga practices with lots of props to focus more on your technique and alignment. While using the other yoga practices with fewer or no props to be more aware on flowing dynamically through your practice with the support of your breath.
What Equipment Do You Need For a Yoga Practice With Props?
One of the things I really like about yoga is the fact that it’s something you can practice pretty much anywhere, without lots of equipment.
However, in most yoga studios you will find a useful range of simple props that are also relatively cheap to buy if you wanted to try using them out at home.
The most common yoga prop is your yoga mat! But are yoga mats really necessary?
While many people nowadays might argue that its impossible to practice yoga without a yoga mat. The first non-stick yoga mats that we’re so familiar with today were invented in the mid to late 1980s by Angela Farmer. Before that, yoga was practiced on anything ranging a yoga practitioner could find such as carpets, rugs, towels, sheets, grass, and wooden floors.
So while yoga mats aren’t 100% necessary—especially if you’re only practicing sun salutations and standing poses. They are certainly useful in a dynamic yoga practice to stop you from sliding around and in a gentler yoga practice to give you more cushioning and support.
A yoga block is one of the most used props, and for good reason. Blocks are relatively cheap to buy and in case you don’t have one can be substituted by a thick book.
You can use yoga blocks both as a way to relax and sink down your body passively towards the block and as a way to energize, lengthen, and actively lift away from the block. Blocks can also be used as a prop to sense the subtler movement of your breathing in a technique called block breathing.
Another useful prop to use is a yoga bolster. This is effectively a long cushion designed in a shape that is useful to support you in many yoga postures. Bolsters are used mostly in gentle restorative yoga and breathing practices to help open your body and find a state of rest.
A yoga belt is another inexpensive yoga prop. This provides a great tool to work on your flexibility and act as a support for building stability and strength in a variety of yoga poses.
A wall space is another useful tool to use for your yoga practice. You might not necessarily think of a wall as a prop but it there are all sorts of ways that you can use it to support and develop your yoga practice!
Another popular yoga prop is a the yoga wheel. This prop is a little more specialised than some of the other yoga props so might not be the first thing you think of using when getting started with using props in your practice.
However if you do have tight shoulders and want to work on your back bending and opening the front of your body these yoga wheels are fantastic.
Doing a Yoga Practice Without Props
As I mentioned before, there are also lots of benefits of doing yoga with no props. Firstly, if you’re completely new to yoga and practicing at home its best to first try out some yoga postures without props before investing in other equipment.
Don’t use a lack of props as a reason to not practice yoga! There’s so much you can do without the need of additional equipment.
Using lots of props in your practice can make your practice feel a bit clunky and slow. And so although props are helpful at times also take the time to experiment with flowing more dynamically through your yoga practice without props.
When you’re trying challenging variations of postures without props there are other ways that you can modify the yoga poses in a way that suits your body.
Doing a yoga practice with no props doesn’t mean that you have to push your body beyond what feels comfortable for your flexibility, strength, or balance on a given day.
You can instead adapt the yoga poses to your body by modifying certain aspects of the posture or by trying a different variation of a challenging pose.
One of the easiest ways to adapt a yoga pose when it feels uncomfortable is to modify the pose with your body. For example, if you are noticing that forward bends—like a Standing or Seated Forward Bend—feel tight and straining on your hamstrings, bend your knees a little to modify the pose.
Also, if the full expression of a pose is not feeling possible for you, just go as far as does feel ok and stay there.
This way you are teaching your body how do the fundamentals of the pose without forcing your body into a pose that it isn’t comfortable in.
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