Props such as straps, blocks, bolsters, and more can help yogis of all levels get more out of your yoga practice.
You may think of props as only something for yoga beginners who are not very flexible, but in fact, props can be a wonderful way to broaden your yoga practice.
There are many different ways to use props in your yoga practice – some make certain poses easier, while in other cases, you can use them to increase the challenge. They can help stabilize a pose, encourage proper alignment and form, and even help you relax more fully during Savasana and other restorative poses.
Here are 3 ways to use props to get more out of your yoga practice:
1.) Lift Your Toes in Camel Pose
Lengthen your spine and free your low back in camel pose by propping up your toes on a pair of blocks.
Place two blocks on your mat, on the lowest height and parallel to the front edge, and with the narrow ends together. Come to stand on your knees (hip-width apart), with your feet on the blocks and your toes curled under. With your hands on your hips, hug your knees energetically toward each other, reaching your tailbone down and lengthening your torso. Broaden your collarbones, and lift your sternum forward and up. Keeping the sides of your body long and your chest lifted, reach your hands to your heels. Root down through your knees and press your hands down into your heels to lift and broaden your chest, lengthening your spine by creating space between your rib cage and your pelvis. With your chest lifted, keep all sides of your neck long as you begin to take your head back and gaze up (if that is at all uncomfortable, you can lightly tuck your chin toward your sternum).
…With the heels elevated, not only is the backbend not as deep, but having the feet above the knees (angling the shins) shifts the weight more into the knees—making it easier to press the hips forward and keep the thighs vertical…
2.) Strap in and Take Flight in Warrior III
Find more stability and freedom in virabhadrasana III (warrior III) by using a strap for support.
With one end of a strap in each of your hands, stand in tadasana (mountain pose), with the length of the strap resting on the floor behind your heels. Step back onto the center of the strap with your left heel. There should be a decent amount of tension on the strap, so adjust your grip as needed. Inhale, root down through both feet, lengthening your spine and lifting up through your sternum. Exhale, broaden your collarbones, stabilizing your shoulder blades onto your upper back. Continue pressing your left heel into the strap and pulling in the opposite direction with your hands, lengthening the sides of your body; slowly begin to tilt your torso forward and lift your left leg back and up into virabhadrasana III with your arms alongside your torso.
Play with pressing through both heels and extending through the crown of your head as you feel yourself “fly.” Remember to draw your low belly in and up for support. You may find that the dynamic action of pushing back through the lifted heel while also pulling forward with the hands feels incredibly solid—allowing you to work on stabilizing your core while lengthening evenly through your spine. When ready, slowly lower your lifted leg back down to the floor, step off the strap, and repeat on the other side.
3.) Uplift Your Down Dog
Placing your hands on blocks in downward facing dog pose can help you to maintain a lift through the underside of your arms and your shoulders. You may find that this creates more stability and allows you to find more length through your spine.
Place two blocks lengthwise (at the lowest height) at the front of your mat. From all fours, place your hands on the blocks with fingers spread, and press back into down dog (feel free to take a shorter down dog and to experiment with keeping your knees bent). Lightly gripping the blocks with your fingertips, press down through the pads of your fingers and palms (thumbs can wrap around the block), and extend out through your arms. Lift the underside of your arms and shoulders away from the floor. Broaden your collarbones, and soften the muscles down the nape of your neck. Resist dropping your armpits toward the floor as you press the tops of your thighs back, lengthening your spine.
Read more & see pictures of each pose modification at YogaInternational.com…