“Using props doesn’t make you a yoga wuss, it makes you smart" -Ana Forrest, Cody App
Oh, how I hated yoga props, when I first started yoga. They got in the way, they halted my “flow,” and they were certainly a down level of which I would not permit myself. This last bit would be the biggest hurdle in my acceptance of yoga toys.
As I did my first Forrest Yoga teacher training, surrounded by 47 other sweaty souls, water bottles, and a myriad of props, I secretly hated them. The props that is. Yet, it was Forrest Yoga that taught me that using blocks, straps, rolls, towels, and anything else Ana came up with was not failing (which is how I used to think of down-leveling). It was simply the pose. What I mean is that we have a pose names like “Lunge Backbend with a Strap”, “Dancer with a Strap”, “Abs with a Block,” and the unforgettable “Bow Over the Roll with a Strap”. How could doing any of the poses, as the name intends, be failing? The obvious answer is that it isn’t, and this first hurdle was lifted just by actually listening to the names of the poses. The second hurdle would take a little more time.
The issue of perceived failure, weakness, and general not-enough-ness plagued me for the first year of my practice and lingered on a bit for the next four. Learning to modify each pose, each day to suit my mood and physical capability saved my asana from getting burnt out and injured. These small changes were my gateway into using props, which then allowed me to deepen my understanding of the practice and how to teach it. Yoga toys have allowed my practice to grow with less struggle.
The yoga toys I use and why:
2 full-size manduka cork blocks - I prefer full-sized, heavy blocks that are study for supporting myself in Splits, ½ Moon, and seated poses. Not as useful for holding between ankles in Boat or for lying over in Savasana, although not the worst.
9" Thera Band pilates ball - I use this in place of the Forrest Yoga “roll,” which is usually a mat, folded into thirds and rolled up. We lay over it with the roll/ball in the soft portion of the belly. I also love it for Abs with a Roll, between the ankles in Boat and between my shoulders with a block under my head in Savasana. Pretty much anytime you would squeeze a block between the legs, I use this ball. Plus it’s inflatable, so it's great for travel.
Manduka wool blanket- Serves the purpose of any yoga blanket: padding. I just happened to pick this up at Kripalu so my sis and I could do acro and picnic in the grass.
Any 8' strap- Do not get a 6' strap. If you can find the elusive 10' strap, get that instead. In Queen Pigeon, the strap can be used for two different assists, so the longer the better. It's great for everything, even as a mat carrier.
Hand towel- used rolled around the strap for neck support in Camel, as a slippy thing for Inchworm/Splits, and as knee protection in Frog Belly Down. If practicing on carpet, a piece of magazine works better as your slippy thing.