Let’s talk about props. 

In most forms of modern postural yoga, props are used as a “remedial measure”. In other words, if a student “can’t do” a particular pose, the teacher provides a “gap filler” in the form of a prop.  For example, if a student can’t reach the floor in a standing forward bend, they can place a block or a chair under his or her hands, to “fill the gap” between their hands and the floor.

This is a legitimate use of props – and one that I use – however, it on its own, it upholds a limited and problematic perspective on yoga. 

The idea that props are remedial fits the rampant misperception that yoga is about how far the body goes from point A to point B.

With this conventional modern perspective about yoga, the further, broader or more extreme the angles, the more advanced the practitioner is perceived to be. The goal is to go further… and if one can’t, then a prop is used.  The prop may be seen as something to use “for now”, until the goal of going further is met someday in the future. 

In SRY {Supreme Release Yoga} we are primarily interested in yoga not as an achievement or athletic program but as a letting go and maturation program, and in the rejuvenating inner nectar {soma} that is gathered within when we let go deeply.

We do use props to “fill in the gap”, caring for the body by meeting it where it is. But that is just one reason to use props. And, even when we use a prop in this way in SRY, it is never because we are in-waiting or striving for the “someday when I can do the pose without  the props”, Instead, we are supporting an inner unfoldment in a personalized angle that is taking place in the moment right now. Your inner experience in yoga is not dependent on how far your body goes, how you look, how hard you worked, or how much you don’t need props. 

The truth is, striving for the body to achieve a particular aesthetic shape literally has ZERO to do with the purpose of yoga. Furthermore, the striving actually BLOCKS the inner unfoldment that is yoga’s purpose. 

In SRY, we consider yoga’s purpose and capacity in everything we do. What is this purpose and capacity? At the level of the pose, to 1} Quiet the Mind and Reveal the Self Satisfied Self {described as the purpose of yoga}, 2} to Abandon All Effort {described in Patanjali Yoga Sūtras as the means to mastering the yoga pose}, to  3}Resolve your Suffering by cultivating the opposite {eg. if you are striving, practice letting go; if you are depleted, rejuvenate}. 

In Supreme Release Yoga, we utilize props, as a means to the purpose of yoga. Here are a few key and interrelated reasons we prop in SRY:

  • To support the body fully so that it can relax, and let go deeply. 
  • To hold the body in specific angles that target designated areas for healing change, yet remain free from effort {the props hold you there}. 
  • To quiet the mind – when we experience support, the mind settles.  
  • To protect hyper-laxity of the joints by preventing over stretching, and thus to induce truly supreme release. 
  • To reverse the tendency to push and force past blind spots, and instead back the body up into a place of true healing and transformation
  • To deepen a pose by creating a womb-like experience. 

In classes designed for a deeper experience, I use MORE propping {6-10 blankets per person}, and I have nicknamed it Containment Yoga. It is a primary part of the SRY approach, used to take yogis deeper into the inner journey of yoga. 

Imagine being surrounded in a womb-like hug of yoga blankets, or being supported by firm and immoveable props that allow you to let go like a newborn being held in a parent’s arm.

 

The purpose of SRY is not how far does the body go from point A to point B, but rather, what inner  resolve, relaxation, release, and rejuvenation can take place when I let go at the deepest level, and what do I discover when that occurs. The props are used to support that primary purpose. 

It’s not that one should never make any effort in life or strive. Indeed, this is part of life. However, most modern people living a life in the world do not need MORE training in how to push, force, achieve and strive. If they do need help with this, you aren’t likely to find them in the local studio doing modern postural yoga. 

Most often the students that “can” go the “furthest” in a pose are the ones who benefit the most from props that prevent them from doing what I call “stretching past the point of healing and transformation”. They not only risking tissue damage and injury {I’ve worked with many many yogis in recovery from their effortful practices} but are actually avoiding something deep within. 

Speaking Āyurvedically, the yoga practitioners that love to push themselves {pitta type yogis}, or who flop easily and boundlessly into extreme angles {vata type yogis}, truly have a profound experience in the containment yoga experience. 

 

Here are a few times when “containment yoga” is especially helpful…

  • You are experiencing overwhelm or transition in life.
  • You feel depleted, lonely, or run down. 
  • The weight of the world is resting on your shoulders
  • Many responsibilities mean there it becomes nearly difficult to relax – even during sleep!
  • Your mind is especially restless or busy.
  • You are anxious and having trouble settling down.
  • Your body is experiencing increased pain, especially in your joints.
  • You have been undergoing lots of change and instability – internally or in life.
  • The weather is cold or windy, and you are feeling “bone cold”.
  • You have been traveling or on the move a lot.

What if your yoga poses felt like a firm hug from a dearest friend who won’t let you go? You know the kind, where you feel loved, supported, stabilized.

What if your yoga was about leaning in and letting go? What if your yoga was about discoverying the truth of your being that reveals itself when you stop trying to push, force or achieve? This is the essence of the SRY practice, concentrated in the containment of props as a deepening measure, not a remedial measure. 

What if, in your yoga practice, you felt especially held, loved, supported and contained? Let me use those words again to describe the feeling of extra propping in yoga poses.

 

Held. Loved. Supported. Contained.

I’ll share these words of a student from over a decade ago: as she walked to get more yoga blankets in order to sit on a throne in a seated pose, “I used to think more props meant I was not good at yoga, now I KNOW more props mean I’m advanced!”

She understood that truly “advanced” in yoga is about paying dear attention to the need of the moment, loving yourself starting with the body, and being free from a sense of insecurity!

How to do this for yourself? Here are a few recommendations: 

  1. Back out of a pose halfway. Yes halfway. 
  2. Use props {blocks and firm blankets are the best} to HOLD yourself at the mid-way point. 
  3. Lean in. 
  4. Let go. 
  5. Notice what unfolds. 
  6. Repeat. 

Love,
Kaya