By paying close attention to anatomical details and the alignment of each posture, Iyengar Yoga is the practice of precision. Poses are held for long periods and often modified with props. This method is designed to systematically cultivate strength, flexibility, stability, and awareness, and can be therapeutic for specific conditions.
The use of props in Iyengar Yoga has been one of the fruits of BKS Iyengar’s innovative genius. Because of his in-depth work with props, people of all ages and health conditions can perform the asanas with ease and thus experience a plethora of benefits from yoga.
For an injured student, a prop may be a support for physical or mental reassurance; for a mature student, the identical prop may be the means to refined penetration into the pose and one’s being.
For students with ailments or limitations, the use of a belt, bolster, or block is a saving grace that allows the student to do poses that they would otherwise be unable to do. With props, students with heart ailments, respiratory problems, or neck or back problems are able to relieve their suffering and begin to heal. As they improve and can do the poses independently, the props may be eliminated.
Props also support staying power in a pose. Increased duration in a pose develops physical and mental stability, poise, and concentration. As we stay in a pose, the mind draws inward, unnecessary thinking is quelled, and we experience more objectivity and humility. Patanjali calls this citta prasadanam, or “even distribution of consciousness.”
In summary, props can be used to
– heal an injury,
– tone the body,
– remove fatigue from the body and mind and replace it with lightness and energy, and
– to develop gracefulness, poise, and understanding.
What we learn with support we can use to refine and improve the classical execution of the postures and way we live our lives.