Hi so watch the really short video, by a damn good teacher and then read my take on it and then leave me a comment……
Ok, so for the most part I like this guy. He’s an awesome yoga teacher, in that he actually teaches not just shouts out poses and expects the student to do them……But…. then he does this video and now I’m disappointed……
Jeezzee….I thought we were past this….the yoga shaming……the ‘oh, do you have to use a prop? Well it’s too bad you can’t do real yoga, bless your heart’ crap……(So I added the “bless your heart” but I live in the south) .
I get where he’s coming from and for the most part I agree, the postures are not the practice, they are one part and only one part of a rich, complex spiritual practice. But no single style of practice (western practice anyway) has done more to exclude most people than Ashtanga. Maybe not deliberately, but by only showing only the fancy postures (thank you Instagram & every yoga magazine…ever…) like crane and forearm balances…the jump back, pike into a handstand and float through to titibasana stuff, you know the yoga fluff. That kind of power practice has disenfranchised a lot of people. You rarely see an Ashtanga yogi in Instagram, just doing pranayama……
And the average person sees that and of course they think they can’t do it. And so they never….ever… get on a mat. They don’t try because they aren’t shown the years of work someone did to get ‘there’. (wherever the hell ‘there’ is )
Please know and understand I started my practice many years ago with Ashtanga and I deeply respect Pattabhi Jois and all he did to bring yoga out of the shadows. But as I grew as a teacher and as a student I knew that some (most) students, myself included, needed a different practice and so I was drawn to Iyengar yoga by its precision, by its application and use of props thereby allowing all to practice…..everyone. Iyengar didn’t use props because he wanted perfection in the pose; he used props to give everyone a means by which to practice. Without blocks, blankets, chair and other props most people would never be able to practice yoga….to live yoga.
And I do understand what he’s saying, that maybe using props can take away your learning something from the pose, from taking the pose deeper, that it takes away from you exploring the practice of yoga asana. And I personally don’t use a lot of props but I also don’t do 3rd series, hell I don’t do most of 2nd series anymore. But when I do I use props they don’t limit my practice…If my practice is limited (and it does get that way sometimes) then it’s ME that is the problem not the blocks, blankets or wall. My practice is eclectic, very eclectic. Somedays it’s Iyengar, and I work on specific poses and the alignment and other days it’s very Ashtanga, lots of Sun Salutations and movement. Most days, if I’m being honest it’s a mix, a blend of both. I think, those styles play very well together. And why shouldn’t they, they have the same ancestry. Krishnamacharya. Both Jois and Iyengar studied under the great yoga master Krishnamacharya.
Most people come to Ashtanga in their 20’s or 30’s and their bodies can adapt to the changes quickly, more quickly than say someone who begins practicing yoga in their 50’s. So what’s a middle aged person with no upper body strength or no core understanding let alone strength, supposed to do? Suffer? Push through the pain of the practice and hope they don’t get hurt in the process? Come on!?
He’s also saying that if you do use props that your practice isn’t meditative. Tell that to everyone whose yoga practice includes restorative yoga, a practice that heavily relies on props, and is deeply meditative. And if the practice is just meditative then why do the postures at all. You could just sit in sukhasana and breath. That’s yoga, that’s meditation.
What he is stating is that he assumes that everyone using props are doing so because they want to somehow deepen just the physical aspects of the pose. To open hips (to use his example). Nothing could be farther from the truth. Props just help to bring the pose to where you are, in that moment. And if you do want to deepen the pose, so what?
Props help you get into a pose and help you get the pose into the body, so that you can be strong, steady and stress free while practicing. Ahem, Patanjali states in the yoga sutra 2.46 that yoga asana should be sthira sukham asanam – that asana should be Steady and Comfortable.
Yes of course yoga is an internal practice. No one is saying it’s not. But does NOT using props make you more spiritual? More enlightened?…. Yea, I didn’t think so.
Look if using a prop allows you to practice yoga without struggling (Sukha) and gives you a sense of steadiness in the pose (Stirha) then use those tools. A block is a tool, just like the breath, bandhas and dristi are tools.
And come on, all asana practice should be meditative, whether it be Astanga, Iyengar, Kundalini or any other yoga practice, it should be meditative and there should be a strong focus on the breath work as well. And lets not forget there are 7 other limbs of yoga we should be studying along with Asana.
I have seen how yoga can transform someone’s life and I have lived that transformation as well. Just remember that whatever you practice, it’s your practice. Use props….don’t use props….I do not care. It’s about your choice, but don’t let someone’s idea of yoga, their dogma, take that choice from you. As long as you are on your mat, as long as you are giving all you have to your time on the mat and as long as you are always exploring why you’re on the mat, exploring the breath and the intention, that’s what I care about. Because then you can begin to take yoga off the mat…..and taking yoga off the mat and into your life, well, that’s where the big changes can happen.
Yoga is a practice of exploring who we are, where we are going and how we choose to get there. It is a practice of the breath, the heart, the mind, the body and ultimately the spirit.
Use whatever tools you need to strengthen your body, relax your mind and enrich your spirit so that you can transform your life.