Building blocks of success

I was once critical of using props in yoga. Admittedly, there was a bit of pride involved in it.

Props were well and good for people that did not have the flexibility or perhaps had restrictions that did not allow them to hold the posture, but not I. I could already achieve the full benefits of the stretch unassisted, so why was my yoga teacher telling me I should try using a block?

The most commonly used props in yoga are blocks and straps. Prop assisted yoga was made famous by B.K.S Iyengar and popularised in his style of yoga of the same name. When Iyengar first came out with his use of props he had his fair share of critics.

Props however are a beneficial way to hold or help you go deeper into a posture or provide you with the necessary support so you can achieve a posture you otherwise would not have been able to.

How does it work? Let’s say someone is going into uttanasana (forward bend) but cannot reach the floor. Sure they place their hands on their shins or however far down their leg they can reach and still get a good stretch. However, using the block serves as a substitute for the floor and offers a firm solid surface that will allow you to better activate your arms in the stretch and better align yourself.

Another example. I don’t mean to boast but I can do a mean western stretch (seated forward bend). My arms are gangly and long and I can easily touch my feet. However, once I touch my feet, my arms essentially flop by the side of my legs. They could potentially go beyond the foot, but there’s nothing there for me to hold on to and sustain the stretch. However, with the help of a block propped against the soles of my feet, I am instead able to grab hold of the block . This way, my arms get the benefit of a deeper stretch and I am also able to keep my spine long and extended.

So we’ve had an example of how a prop can help someone who initially wouldn’t be able to hold the posture and how it could help enhance a posture. Now here’s how it can be used to improve your practise.

I’ve never really had much arm strength. I’ve tried weights and focused on arm intensive asanas. Although my arm strength has improved from what it initially was, it still is overall weak. So when my teacher announced about a month ago that we were going to attempt lolasana I immediately knew, no matter how hard I tried or how positive my thinking was, I wouldn’t be able to do the posture.

The aim of lolasana is to tuck your torso and bent legs (with the ankles crossed) into a tight ball and then use the support of your arms to raise the legs.

I had attempted it before. I had tried desperately to use all my arm strength to raise the dead weight of my body and not even getting of the ground for a millisecond. Each frustrated attempt ending with me panting and rubbing my wrists.

But then our instructor revealed a trick. Lo and behold the block, once again!

Two blocks were placed on either side of the thighs to give us that extra bit of height needed for lift off. After pressing down on the blocks and with the help of a bandha, (abdominal lock technique) I actually achieved for several seconds, lift off!

I now do a regular prop assisted lolasana to help build arm strength and find that I am able to hold the posture longer each time.

The blocks are just one of the many props out there for you to experiment with. Why not try using a prop to help you go deeper into a pose or to achieve a posture you never thought possible? The possibilities are endless.

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph is an accredited yoga teacher who loves to share her yogic journey from travels in India, cleansing techniques, her favourite poses and their benefits and tips to remember when practising.

You May Also Like

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2024 02 14t125429.653

The importance of stillness

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 (93)

Yoga for a flexible mind

Wellbeing & Eatwell Cover Image 1001x667 2023 10 25t100852.360

Healing Through Yoga: How Mindful Movement Eases Grief

Imposter Syndrome

Yoga for imposter syndrome