As a means of progressing in your asana practice props are paramount. Your yoga mat itself is a prop and we have become so accustomed to using a mat it wouldn't feel like proper yoga without it somehow.
There are some wonderful ways with props:
- press a cork brick between your thighs for tadãsana, or for setu bandhãsana
- make a loop in a belt as wide as your shoulders and pass it around your upper arms behind your back for a deep shoulder stretch, step into parsvottanãsana in this way
- use the strap to go deeper in natarajãsana as you loop it around your foot, or in danurãsana to go for that deeper shoulder stretch
- prop up your sit bones with a foam block in postures such as gomukhãsana, bharadvajãsana to level out the hips or in dandãsana where you can sit on the lip of the block in order to tip the sit bones upward.
- use the wall to support your sit bones in forward bends, your heels in downward dogs, your legs in viparita karani
There are endless variations, but the props are just that: props. A means. The balance of effort and relaxation in a pose can be experienced through the use of props. Can we learn to cultivate it once we have got rid of the prop?
Asana is but one aspect of our practice, can we learn to cultivate the attitude of asana when faced with our day to day responsibilities?
Something happens to students when they step on the mat, some turn severe, others look rather worried, some beam effortlessly, there are so many attitudes we adopt when we come to the mat that when we are asked to let go of these attitudes it can sometimes feel like we are being asked to DO one more thing when in fact it is quite the opposite. For once we are asked not to do but to observe what arises when we don't do. Don't do: do not do. This is the taoist concept of wu wei that so beautifully sums up the balance of effort and relaxation we embody in yoga: doing non doing.
Try it, or rather don't try, or try to try without trying. Tire your mind so it falls quiet, then allow the truth to arise, effortlessly.