November 2010 News from Piedmont Yoga Studio | iHanuman


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November 2010 News from Piedmont Yoga Studio

One thing about PYS that may be a little different from many other yoga schools is the plethora of props. If you're a regular student here you no doubt think all the blocks and blankets and chairs and straps and bags and bolsters are par for the course, but there are a good number of schools around that have only a handful of props or-heaven forbid!-no props at all. In 21st century yoga, the presence of all this stuff is usually a sure sign that the majority of teachers on the staff, including yours truly, grew up yogically in or around the Iyengar system, which is widely known for its innovative use-or in some students' estimation, overuse-of props. There's an old joke in Yogaland: How many Iyengar teachers does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but he needs a chair, a block, a strap, and three blankets.
So what's the deal with props anyway? Opinions are mixed. Some teachers reject them totally, believing that any prop is akin to a crutch on which the student learns to lean too heavily for too long, inhibiting her "progress." There's something to be said for this. It's easy to become "addicted" to our props, and forget that for the most part they're temporary aides. But at the same time there are many un-propped students out there who are, in my opinion, doing themselves serious harm by not using props, at least in certain critical situations; for example, most everybody should have a thick blanket support in shoulder stand.
You might imagine props are something new in Yogaland, but that's not the case. Check out a picture of the Hindu deity Shiva, the patron saint of Hatha Yoga. These are modern renditions but there's some heavy-duty imagery that's been associated with this figure for hundreds of years. There's the snake, for starters, a symbol of the mysterious "serpent power" dormant in each of us which the Hatha practice seeks to awaken. Then there's the trident and drum (to the left), the ash-covered body (which is why his skin has a bluish cast), and the tiger skin on which he's sitting. But notice too the short crutch his left arm is resting on. This is, believe it or not, a yoga prop called a "staff" (danda).


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