Thursday, February 18, 2010

Between A Prop and Hard Place

If you practice yoga in a studio, chances are it’s equipped with all manner of props: blocks, blankets, straps, bolsters. Instructors love looking for prop candidates, inserting blocks beneath hands, blankets under hips, straps around soles. Props are great. Like modifications, they can make the difference between comfort and safety versus tension or strain, especially if it’s a new or challenging pose. And what’s better than closing your eyes and fully relaxing into a restorative nest of blankets and bolster topped with an eye pillow?

But looking around our ‘studio’ this morning—a spacious neighborhood living room with furniture shoved to the side—it occurs to me that equally important to the physical benefit of a prop or modified pose, is the decision to use it.

I watch a student bring her hands to her hips instead of reaching overhead in Warrior I. She might be tired. Or sore. Or today a more relaxed arm position just feels better. Regardless, she’s tuned into her body. With one simple adjustment she has taken the strive out of the pose. The result? She’s replaced reach with receive. She’s practicing serenity, not struggle. She’s added the less to effort.

Our prop supply is pretty thin on Crooked Island. The nearest Target is 450 miles away and ordering online would produce nothing more than a chuckle. You want this sent where? Until we beef up our inventory, I knot kerchiefs together in place of straps. (This gives students the added option of lowering themselves out a window should the class disappoint). I’m on the lookout for 4x4’s washed up on the beach. Wooden blocks, as long as not used on a slippery surface, are sturdy and dependable.

Props and modifications are great. Even better is your decision to use them.

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