Busting Myths about Yoga Props
by Sohaila Akbar
The use of yoga props has elicited different responses from different people. While most practitioners vouch for the benefits that we had discussed in the previous issue, there are some that feel props make the postures easier than necessary or can make you lazy and too used to the support.
Today, let us address the myths associated with the idea of using props in one’s practice.
1. Props make the asanas easier than necessary
Some people are of the opinion that props ‘dumb down’ the postures, making them unnecessarily easy, so much so that the practice becomes a bit effortless on the practitioner’s part. Friends, props are not just cool accessories to make your practice easier. In fact, props make us do the pose properly, with correct alignment, and sometimes that makes us work harder because then we are not able to cheat the alignment.
2. Props make you lazy
3. Props can hinder your progress by making you too dependent on them
It is true that sometimes we can fall prey to the feeling of safety that props provide us, and we might start making excuses for not getting out of the comfort zone. For instance, I might keep thinking, “My hamstrings are tight, so I always need a yoga belt for so and so posture,” without ever trying to safely stretch myself just a bit more. By putting in that effort consistently, my hamstrings will lengthen over a period of time, and I can eventually let go of the belt. But because I want to stay in my comfort zone, I create a mental block which stops me from practising those asanas in the absence of props. Now, friends, think about it: is the cultivation of such mindset the fault of props? Absolutely not. Yoga is as much about clearing our mental blocks as it is about our physicality. So, in such cases, we need to work on the discipline of mind as much as on the physical discipline. What needs to be understood here is that the drive for excelling in your practice must come from within, and once you find it, props will no longer be the hindrance to progress, but rather act as a catalyst to it.
4. Using props is against the principals of yoga
Sutra 2.46 of Patanjali Yoga Sutra says:
स्थिरसुखमासनम् ॥४६॥ sthira-sukham-āsanam ॥46॥
It is one of the basic tenets of Asana, and mentions that a pose should be steady and comfortable. Isn’t that what props help us achieve? Then, friends, how can the use of props be against any yoga principle?
Now having talked about the benefits and the myths related to props, the question arises that is it absolutely necessary to have props while practising? I would say no. The fact is that we can almost always modify the postures by making slight changes to the body itself, in which case other props are not required. For instance, instead of using blocks in Uttanasana, one can slightly bend the knees and place the hands on the shins, and slowly progress from there with consistent practice. Or a puppy pose variation can be done against the wall for shoulder opening. So, while props come with huge advantages for a practitioner, the lack thereof will not take away anything from your practice. One can continue to advance in their yoga journey with or without props.
Using props is a personal preference; some may opt to not use them, and that is totally fine. However, we should ask ourselves if the resistance is coming from a place of ego. Do we feel we are ‘lesser than’ for using props? If the answer is yes, maybe we need to change the perspective. Why not look at props as friends supporting you in your yoga journey, rather than seeing them as deterrents to a fully independent practice? I leave you with the thought that if we understand the purpose of props, understand the various ways in which they can be used, and see them as an extension of ourselves, we might just be surprised by the way it elevates our practice.
About the Author
Sohaila is a Yoga teacher, keen on bringing about positive changes in the lives of others through the knowledge that she has received from her teachers. Prior to this she was a school teacher working towards imparting academic, social and ecological knowledge to young learners. Sohaila is an avid reader of books and have an undying love for fiction. She prefers paperbacks and hardcovers over e-books anyday. She loves travelling, and a good cup of coffee is always welcome!