There seems to be a common misconception that using a prop in yoga, such as a block or a strap, means that you are weak, or not as good, or bad at yoga. I’d like to address this now.
I am going to go ahead and include myself, here. I remember when I started doing yoga, my teachers would say, “If you can’t do this pose, you can use a block.” Or, “Use a strap if you aren’t flexible.” Immediately, my ego kicked in and said, I have to prove that I can do this pose and that I am flexible so I can’t use a stupid block or a strap. Ha! Look at me! Not using a block or a strap! I am an advanced yogi!
Meanwhile my body was screaming at me.
Now, I know better. Much better. And I became inspired to write about it.
The funny thing about the italicized version of myself saying she is an “advanced yogi” is that she is nowhere near! Not because her body wasn’t physically prepared to do the poses, but because her ego was in her way. Yoga is about quieting the mind and detaching from the ego. How can one acquire such a title as “advanced yogi” when their ego won’t quiet down long enough to allow them to use a simple foam block?
Here’s the thing. In Teacher Training, we would begin classes everyday with two blocks, a strap, and a blanket at our mats. Let me tell you, there were some girls in my training that could move their bodies in ways I didn’t know were possible. If I knew one thing, it was that these were advanced yogis- again, not because of their incredible embodiment of the poses, but because they had no shame in using a little support where they needed it.
A prop is there to help you fully realize a pose. It is there to support you as you go deeper than you ever have before. It is there to protect your body and prevent injuries by providing stability throughout the evolution of your yoga practice.
Here is a horrible quality but incredibly adorable picture of my man enjoying his props:
Props remind me of therapy. Too often, like yoga props, therapy comes with a negative connotation. Do you know how many people (ahem, New Yorkers) use therapists? Are they all crazy people, running around nude with IQs in the negative numbers? No. They are actually some of the most incredible people I have ever met on incredible journeys, who just need some guidance overcoming some bumps on their path. They are incredibly smart and strong people, in fact, equipped with the tools needed to continue on that path, tools which a lot of others don’t have. In my opinion, it would be crazy of them not to ask for help, and to just stare at the roadblock, dumbfounded. Just as crazy as it is to force your beautiful body into a position that is uncomfortable, painful, or dangerous. Honor your path. Honor your body.
What I am trying to say is, ask for help. If you are struggling in French class, sign up for a tutor. If you don’t think you are going to make a deadline at work, go to a colleague. If you are coping with anxiety issues, talk to someone about it. If your revolved triangle pose is feeling a little tight: Use. A. Block. You will find that the pose will feel remarkably different. It is the only way to truly reap the benefits of the pose.
We are not serving ourselves in anyway by failing the French quiz, by working all night, by living life anxiously, or by pulling a muscle.
I’d like to revolutionize the language used in regards to propping your practice. No more “if you can’t…” or “if you aren’t ____ enough…” What can we say instead? As a teacher myself, I choose language like, “I like to use a block here to give me some added…” or, “A strap is amazing here if you have tight hamstrings like me…”
Or, my favorite, “use a prop here if it is going to serve you.” If it is going to serve you. If it won’t, then don’t. It is that unbelievably simple.
My hope is that we all become not only “advanced yogis” but advanced human beings by allowing ourselves to be supported, to be guided, to be helped. It is tempting to explode your ego, to show off, to prove yourself to be independent and strong. Being strong is a beautiful thing, yes. And you know what? It takes a strong person to ask for help.