YOGA for EVERY body
“Props make it possible”
By Kathy Randolph, Certified Practitioner
A common misconception is that you have to be flexible to begin a yoga practice; the truth however, is that flexibility is a result, not a prerequisite – a very important distinction. You also gain strength, balance and coordination from the physical poses, and improved circulation and stress relief from the breathing exercises. Yoga really is for people of all ages, sizes and physical condition.
Many beginners benefit from the use of props. Props help with proper alignment, and provide support to the muscles, minimizing strain. A strap, a folded blanket, a block or a chair can allow a new student to do the poses safely and correctly right from the start. Here are some examples of the use of props in forward bends.
A classic pose is seated, legs straight out in front, bending forward from the hips (Figure 1).
This pose, with the addition of a folded blanket and a strap is easily accessible to the beginning student (Figure 2).
• The folded blanket is placed so the sitting bones are right on the blanket’s edge, tilting the pelvis forward and protecting the low back.
• The strap is looped around the feet with the ends held in each hand, providing the same tension as holding the feet directly. Stretch gently, then release and move up on the inhale.
If there are special low back concerns, a safe approach to the forward bend is lying on the back, either on the floor or on a bed, and stretch one leg at a time (Figure 3).
• Start by lying on the back, both knees bent and soles of feet on the floor.
• Bring the right knee toward the chest and put the strap around the arch of the foot, ends of the strap in each hand.
• Straighten the right leg, and draw it closer while exhaling. Release gently on the inhale and repeat with the breath. After gentle stretching, release and repeat on the other side.
If getting up from the floor presents problems, use a block or a chair, and do the pose standing (Figures 4 and 5).
• Stand in front of the prop and bend forward from the hips on the exhale.
• Place both hands on the block or chair and breathe, relaxing further into the stretch on the exhalation. After gentle stretching,bend the knees and inhale to move up to standing, lifting with the legs, not the back.
By design, yoga poses help us to achieve and maintain a full range of motion. The use of props will allow you to practice this ancient discipline while you gain the wonderful flexibility, strength, coordination and balance yoga can provide – for anybody!