Don't Be Afraid to Use Props
By Jamie Annette
Whether you’re new to yoga or have been practicing for years, yoga props can be a great tool to enhance your practice. They can help to offer comfort, create safe alignment and allow our bodies to explore the fullest expression of a yoga pose. B.K.S Iyengar, one of the fathers of yoga as we know it, is the founder of yoga props such as blocks, straps, bolsters and blankets.
One of the most common ways to use props is to offer more comfort for your body. You can place a folded blanket beneath your knees to create a cushion in poses such as table or knee-down lunge. You can also sit on a folded blanket, which not only cushions your sitz bones, but also elevates your hips and creates more length in your lumbar spine (lower back).
You can use props to offer more support, while still gaining the benefits of strength and flexibility. For example, holding a strap around the balls of your feet to safely and comfortably stretch your hamstrings and spine in a seated forward bend. Or using a block under your bottom hand, if unable to comfortably bring your hand to the floor, when coming into extended triangle pose. Sometimes we only need to use props in this way when we first begin practicing, as our body becomes more flexible. But sometimes it’s our own anatomy; for instance, the size and shape of our bones, which is something we can’t change. So, there are times we might continue to use props throughout our lifelong yoga practice. And what an amazing option to have, in order to fully enjoy our yoga journey!
Props can also be used to create a supportive, relaxing experience, which you’ll find in a restorative yoga class. In this practice, the props allow your body to be in a more passive state, so you can hold the posture longer and more comfortably in order to gain the benefits of gentle stretching and complete relaxation. One example is supported reclining bound angle pose. You create “steps” with 2 blocks and place a bolster length-wise at an angle on top of the blocks - this makes a “yoga recliner.” Place a folded blanket at the top, so that when you lie down you have some support for your neck. Once lying on the “yoga recliner” bring the soles of your feet together, knees fall out to the sides, to open the hips in bound angle. Place one block (at the most comfortable height for your body) under your outer thighs or knees to support the hips and knees. Then allow the arms to rest beside you at an angle with palms facing up, so that the muscles of your chest and shoulders can open. With this support, you can stay here for up to 5 minutes, surrendering fully.
These are just a few ways to use yoga props, but you can learn even more rom your yoga teachers - feel free to ask for assistance in class. So, the next time you unroll your yoga mat, you might try some yoga props and see what your amazing body is able to do.
by Donna Dowson
Do you ever feel like you're constantly under stress, struggling to relax and switch off?
The practice of yoga nidra may be just what you need to find some peace of mind. Yoga nidra is a form of yoga that has been gaining popularity in recent years, and for good reason. In this blog post, we'll explore what yoga nidra is, its benefits, and how you can incorporate it into your daily life.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Yoga nidra is a type of meditation that originated in India and has been practiced for thousands of years. The term "yoga nidra" translates to "yogic sleep," which can be misleading since the practice does not involve sleeping at all. Instead, yoga nidra is a state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep, where the body and mind are relaxed but the practitioner is still aware.
Yoga nidra is different from other types of yoga because it focuses on relaxation and conscious awareness rather than physical movement. It involves lying down in a comfortable position and following the instructions of the teacher or a guided meditation.
The Benefits of Yoga Nidra
There are many physical, mental, and emotional benefits to practicing yoga nidra. Research studies have shown that yoga nidra can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, improve sleep quality, and boost the immune system. Since yoga nidra encourages relaxation and conscious awareness, it can be a powerful tool for managing stress and anxiety. By allowing you to let go and focus on the present moment, yoga nidra helps to quiet the mind and calm the nervous system. Yoga nidra is a powerful tool for relaxation and stress relief, with benefits that can extend far beyond the practice itself. If you're feeling stressed or anxious, consider giving yoga nidra a try. By following these simple steps, you can incorporate this practice into your daily life and reap the rewards of greater peace and wellbeing. Remember, like any form of yoga, practicing on a consistent basis can lead to the best benefits!
How to Practice Yoga Nidra
If you're interested in trying yoga nidra for yourself, here's how to get started:
1. Find a quiet, comfortable place to lie down. You can use a yoga mat or a bed, but make sure you won't be disturbed for the duration of the practice.
2. Set an intention for your practice. This could be anything from "relaxation" to "finding inner peace."
3. Follow the instructions of a teacher or use a guided meditation. There are many free yoga nidra meditations available online, so find one that resonates with you.
4. Begin to relax your body, starting at your toes and working your way up to your head. Allow each part of your body to sink into the ground, releasing any tension
5.Follow the instructions for the visualization portion of the practice. This might involve imagining a peaceful place or focusing on your breath. Allow yourself to simply "be" for a few minutes before gently returning to the present moment.
Yoga nidra is a powerful tool for relaxation and stress relief, with benefits that can extend far beyond the practice itself. If you're feeling stressed or anxious, consider giving yoga nidra a try. By following these simple steps, you can incorporate this practice into your daily life and reap the rewards of greater peace and wellbeing. Remember, like any form of yoga, practicing on a consistent basis can lead to the best benefits!
Yoga is for Everyone
There are a lot of misconceptions about yoga that have come from the commercialization of the practice. From the styles of clothes, to what you see on social media, yoga can feel unobtainable, requiring you to be flexible, skinny, and young. It is such a disservice to the practice and beauty of its lineage. Yoga is a personal journey, which is unique to everyone who explores this practice. Yoga is more than just a physical practice. There are meaningful ethics to live by that connect so deeply with many cultures and backgrounds. It is a chance to learn more about your breathing, and the impact your breath can have on how your body acts in situations. It is a chance to learn more about your mind, and how your self speak either takes away the stresses or increases them when things are tough. It is lastly a physical practice, in which each day your body shows up differently. Through movement, you can work to find peace and balance in your body. At Unwined, we want to show you how yoga can be accessible to everyone.
Unwined's mission states, "Unwined Yoga welcomes all who wish to practice and provides a safe and accepting environment." No matter where you are in your yoga journey, we offer classes that can benefit you. Our instructors work creatively to produce classes that honor the depth of yoga, while providing variations and options to support all bodies and all backgrounds. Be sure to communicate with your instructor before class if you feel like there is anything they should know about you as a practitioner. After all, it is you they are looking to serve. We can't wait to practice with you next - because yoga is for you!