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Five Benefits of Using Props

Welcome to your month dedicated to Props, the beautiful additions that help to elevate your yoga practice, yet so often missed out or not included. In this blog post, we will dive into the significance of using props in your practice and highlight the advantages they bring, not only to your practice but to your body too.

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So, where did the use of props come from?
The incredibly influential yoga teacher B.K.S Iyengar is often credited with introducing props to the practice of yoga. Originally from India, B.K.S trained under his brother in law, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who is considered one of the most influential yoga teachers of the 20th century and often referred to as the ‘Father of Yoga’.

Iyengar studied with Krishnamacharya in the 1930s and 1940s and later went on to develop his own unique style of yoga, now known as Iyengar yoga. He believed in making yoga accessible to all individuals, regardless of their age, flexibility or physical limitations. To achieve this, he introduced various props such as blocks, straps, blankets and bolsters to support practitioners in achieving proper alignment and experiencing the benefits of each pose. His emphasis on alignment and the use of props revolutionised the way yoga was practiced and opened doors for people with limited mobility and physical challenges, making it available for all.

Today, props are widely utilised in various styles of modern yoga thanks in large part to the pioneering work of B.K.S. Iyengar.

While many imagine and picture yoga as a collection of graceful postures on a mat, it is important for all to understand the valuable role that props play in enhancing your practice and your alignment.

FIVE BENEFITS OF USING PROPS

1. EXTENSION OF THE BODY

Props act as an extension of the body, aiding the achievement of proper alignment and helping facilitate a greater range of motion. For example, blocks can be used to bring the ground closer to your hands in standing poses, allowing those with tight hamstrings or limited flexibility to experience the full benefits of the posture. By bridging the gap between your body and the floor, props provide the necessary support to explore and deepen poses that may have felt inaccessible or unachievable before.

2. IMPROVED ALIGNMENT

One of the key benefits of incorporating props into your yoga practice is the ability to enhance alignment. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced yogi, maintaining correct alignment (for your body), is crucial to prevent injuries and fully engage the muscles. Props can assist in aligning the body by providing stability and support, allowing you to find the optimal position for each pose. They enable practitioners to explore correct alignment gradually, as well as helping to refine their postures over time.

3. DEEPENING THE PRACTICE

Props allow practitioners to delve deeper into poses, providing a safe and supportive environment for exploration. By using props, you can stay in a pose for longer, allowing your body to gradually release tension and open up. This helps to cultivate greater flexibility, strength and balance over time. With props, you can experience the transformative power of each asana, discovering new depths and dimensions in your practice. They offer a gateway to unlocking the full potential of a yoga practice.

4. ENHANCED RELAXATION

Yoga is not just about physical exertion; it is also a means of finding tranquility and inner peace. Props can greatly contribute to this aspect of yoga by promoting relaxation and rejuvenation. For example, using bolsters, blankets or eye pillows during restorative poses helps to create a comforting and nurturing environment. These props support the body in releasing tension and stress, allowing for a deeper state of relaxation and improved mental well-being.

5. ACCESSIBLE FOR ALL

The beauty of props is that they make yoga accessible to individuals with varying levels of strength, flexibility, or physical limitations, which was always Iyengar’s aim. Props provide modifications and adaptations that allow everyone to participate and experience the benefits of yoga, regardless of their current abilities. From seniors to individuals recovering from injuries, pregnant women to beginners, props create a safe and inclusive space where each individual can personalise their practice.

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This month on the membership, we focus on incorporating props into your yoga practice to show you how it can transform your experience on the mat. Remember that they act as supportive companions, enabling you to explore new horizons, nurture your body and lean into the benefits of yoga. It’s important to also remember that you don’t need to own specific yoga props to be able to do these practices. There are ways in which you can use household items to replace them. See below which props will be used in our practices this month on the membership and how you could use household items instead.

YOGA MAT:
A yoga mat is a specially fabricated mat used to provide cushioning and traction as you pose.
Home tip: use a towel or blanket on top of a carpeted surface as an alternative.

BLOCK or BRICK:
Ideal for adding lift or grounding in poses.
Home tip: you can use a thick book or pack of A4 paper instead.

YOGA STRAP:
This is a fantastic yoga prop to help you extend and lengthen your reach during your asana practice.
Home tip: dressing gown belt, scarf, rolled up hand towel. 

BOLSTER:
These feel-good props are similar to body pillows but firmer and typically rectangular in shape. They are supportive anatomically and typically used to create relaxation, help soften posture, and aid in opening the body.
Home tip: stacks of pillows, rolled up blanket, soft stuffed pillow.

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In our first week, we have a strong and powerful 60-minute flow using props to enhance this strength based practice. You will need two blocks, a strap and a bolster for this practice. Remember you can also use household items as props to replace the above if you don’t have them. 

In our second week, our dear friend and experienced posture therapist, Rachna Patel, has filmed a posture specific series focusing on alignment, mobility, strength and flexion and using props. As part of this collection you will have three incredible posture based practices to come back to time and again that will help you improve your overall alignment. 

In our third week, we have a beautiful 45-minute yin class for you to enjoy. One of the main objectives of yin yoga is to find that edge where the body is relaxed, but still working and hold it for anything from 3 to 12 minutes. Using props in yin is crucial as it allows you to work at around 80% of your depth into a posture, working into the fascia, (connective tissue), without straining. 

We also have a lovely seated meditation aptly named ‘Your Comfortable Seat’, that will explore using props throughout, enabling you to sink deeper in your breath. 

In your fourth week, we have a short and spicy 20-minute practice with a focus on using props to help your arm balance practice. Incorporating props into your arm balance practice allows you to progress gradually, build strength and stability, refine alignment and explore the potential of these challenging poses with more confidence and body awareness. 

As we enter our final week, we delve into a comprehensive exploration of one of the most beloved yoga postures - downward facing dog. Cat expertly guides you through this iconic pose, providing a step by step breakdown along with insight, modifications and the numerous benefits it offers.   

As always, we have our suggested Soul Sanctuary Flows from the back catalogue (in black) which align with this month’s theme, mapped out below in our printable calendar. You can find these additional practices in the calendar function on our beautiful app or search for them on the membership on the website via desktop.

And don’t forget - you can flow along with our monthly playlist HERE

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Props are NOT a sign of weakness, but part of an intelligent and evolving practice.

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