Receiving Support Through Props

Props such as blankets, blocks, straps, and mats that are commonplace in yoga studios today are relatively new tools for me. When I first started practicing (in the 1970s, egad!), there were no yoga studios, let alone props. For many years I just moved the coffee table aside and practiced on the living room floor. There were no yoga mats, as such, so I’d sometimes use a beach towel.

Props to props!

Props to props!

And so when I entered yoga teacher training in 2011 I found myself resistant to the idea of using props. They weren’t familiar to me, and I resisted change. In fact I had to let go of a lot of old ideas about my practice and be open to new ways of doing things.

One day we were practicing balasana, child’s pose, supported by folded blankets. I folded one blanket into the teeniest, tiniest rectangle and draped my torso over it. My teacher came over and said to the other students, “Look, see how her spine is collapsing. It’s like this one blanket is the only support she’s giving herself.” That struck a chord. Where else in my life was I not giving myself enough support?

We refolded the blanket into a larger rectangle, and stacked another one on top of that. I folded over into the pose. Immediately I felt broader across the back. My heart felt truly supported. I felt a noticeable shift in my ability to relax deeper. Ahhh…

This lady has the right idea!

This lady has the right idea!

During my teacher training I was also separated from my husband (now divorced) and struggling with a lot of emotional upheaval, depression, and anxiety. Many days I just didn’t feel up to movement, yet I craved the benefits of my yoga practice. I began to explore restorative yoga more deeply as a way to keep my practice going but honoring my current needs.

I started using props more often. A lot of props. Stacks of blankets under and over me. Blocks under my forehead in down dog, under my knees in supta baddha konasana. Eye pillows over my forehead and also under my wrists and hands in savasana. Like the Princess and the Pea, I even stacked mats on top of each other for extra cushioning. Sandbags, chairs, bolsters, and lots of pillows filled my yoga room.

At first, restorative work seemed like a “break” from what I considered my regular practice, which was more active. It didn’t seem like “real” yoga. But as I progressed I came to see just how powerful restorative yoga can be. I was learning to meet myself where I was, rather than trying to be someplace else. I was able to stay present with my breath and my feelings more easily in stillness. I came out of my restorative sessions feeling noticeably different, my anxiety and depression lifted, my mind clear. Restorative yoga became an essential part of my self-care.

And I came to love props! I’ve begun to incorporate them more into my total practice, giving myself permission to receive their support. This has translated into my daily life, too. Giving and receiving are flowing more naturally. Using props can help you learn more self-compassion. Life is hard enough–give yourself a loving hand.

Love yourself and others will see the way in you.

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