I took the photo above from Yoga London's article, "What Are Yoga Props and How to Improvise Them For Home Practice."
I didn't take to yoga right away. Close to twenty years ago, the director of student health for my school (Hi, NB!) organized a special yoga class run by a teacher from the local yoga studio. Always game for new exercise options, I signed up, showed up, and hated every minute of it. The class focused on restorative yoga, so I didn't breathe hard and didn't sweat. At the end of the class, lying in savasana (or corpse pose), I thought about how much this class was wasting my time, time when I could be doing any of my long list of working-mother-of-young-children tasks. I completed the six sessions of the class, but never got the point.
Flash forward several years, I tried another yoga class with a teacher (Hi, AH!) who had a different philosophy about yoga. The class moved to upbeat music and stretched and strengthened my every muscle. I came out sore, sweaty, and satisfied. Sadly for me and happily for her, that teacher moved across the country. For a while I looked for other in-person studios and found some I liked, but also found their classes too expensive and/or at inconvenient times and places.
Then I discovered online yoga. I love the internet options, convenient to my ridiculously early wake-up times and my aversion to driving to exercise. When I was doing Aditi Shah's Peloton online class this morning, I noticed that the instructor used the props to support herself in the floor poses.
In all of the classes I've taken, the teachers offer modifications with props, encouraging students to do what feels right, to push with an awareness of what's happening inside their own bodies rather than based on what anyone else in the room is doing. But up until this morning's class, it always felt like they were saying, "Sure, use the props if you need to because you're not strong/flexible/good enough, but if you want to push yourself, you won't need them." Silly me.
The props allow us to stretch farther, to push deeper, to relax the parts of our bodies we're not using in order to strengthen the parts we are. And of course I started thinking about how important it is for all of us to rely on and take advantage of the support systems we have in yoga and in life. None of us would have survived the last two years without the people and infrastructure that buoy us when we sink and hold us steady when we wobble.
After writing last week's post about working together, I was thinking about the idea of working alone. I realized that even when I'm sitting by myself, no other human in sight, I'm not alone because I'm being held up by lots of supports, including the chair under my bum and the people I have in my corner.
Including you. If you're reading this, you're part of my support system. I give you props for showing up and making me feel safe stretching my writing muscles. I hope I'm a support to you. I'd love to hear about what supports and buoys you in the comments.