you can thank bks iyengar for those yummy blocks, satisfying straps, soothing blocks and blankets, and, of course, paul the wall. props can be used to make your asanas more accessible, deeper, or even more challenging (hello, handstands!).
but no matter how you use them, ultimately, they are meant to be used as a means to an end…not an end themselves.
like a baby learning to walk, table edges, chairs and walls are indispensable to the process…but eventually, you just have to let go.
so, how do you wean yourself from the props you rely upon and love so dearly?
first of all, let me say that i am really just talking about an active practice here. i am not referring to passive or restorative poses.
but let us assume you are using blocks to help lift your body in lolasana or a strap to grab your foot in natarajasana. you know the end goal is to lift block-free or get that flip grip once and for all. and yet, every time the poses come up, you run to the prop closet for your loyal friend.
if you become complacent with your practice (where’s that tapas???), you risk having your props devolve into crutches. and it’s time to toss the crutches and run, don’t walk, to your personal power.
to get rid of your props, the first thing you need to do is identify what physical purpose the prop is serving for you. for example, if you are practicing handstands with a strap around your triceps, the purpose of the strap is to keep your arms hugging in. we tend to utilize props knowing that they work, but never questioning why they work. warning: this step amy require some actual thinking.
once you’ve identified the prop’s purpose in life, then you want to thresh out a retirement plan and start phasing out its job. the strap is still there, but your focus is centered on what your arms are doing and how you can activate them to hug them in. at this stage, imagine the prop is the star of the show and you are the show-stealing supporting actor. what can you do to double down on the help your props are providing? this is where you create the muscle memory so that your body can kick in on command and do its own thing.
of course, step three is to get rid of the prop all together and simply replicate its job in your own body. i.e. pay attention to how your elbows want to collapse and hug those arms in! et, voila! when you start doing a pose without props, put all of your attention into that one body part. never take it for granted. everything won’t necessarily happen instantly, but if you can get to the point where your mind at least knows what to focus on, you’re half-way there. don’t give up if you find yourself unable to do the pose when you first ditch the props. there is certainly a reprogramming process involved. stay patient and don’t look back! if you could do it with the prop, you can do it without.
no one said this would be easy. but i am here to tell you that it will be empowering!