I had an opportunity to talk with the amazing Brendan Jensen about using props in my workout and I’ll be honest, if I’m not using a block or a strap because I’m experiencing pain or needing to go easy, I really have no idea what they’re all about. Brendan has been teaching yoga in Toronto for a decade and his classes are always fun, friendly and challenging. They’re also very supportive — he’s a huge advocate for using the props on hand in the studio and he gives lots of options for modification. So the first thing I ask him? Is using props cheating?
“No way” he tells me, “props can offer possibility.” Well, sure. But isn’t ‘possibility’ just a fancy word for ‘ease’? Brendan is adamant. “Everyone thinks they’re cheating when they use props. Generally people come into the studio and they want to work hard, so there’s this feeling that if you’re not using the support (don’t use the props) somehow it’s going to maximize the benefits of your practice. It’s usually the opposite.
“Props can create a kind of efficiency in the body. They can offer a wider range of movement, stability, grounding potential.” He cites as example someone struggling to touch the floor using a block to make it effortless. “Efficiency is more beneficial to your practice.” So that feeling I get of being ‘cheaty’? Brendan says, “We place too many unnecessary expectations on ourselves, we think we should be able. We all encounter our egos in different ways.” Oooh, touché Brendan.
He takes blocks and a strap to every class to give himself options. “Ask the teacher for recommendation at the top of class. Using props can take the edge off the sensation allowing you to focus on what’s happening in the body. At first, notice if you’re always moving right into your maximum sensation.” As in, that point where you’re just a touch on autopilot because you’re such a practiced yogi and you’re in your zen place. “You don’t always have to be in that hot, stretchy feeling. Try using a prop to explore the space right before that, I think a lot of people are very surprised they find a lot of freedom and mobility in that space.” I ask for a challenge. “Try toppling tree with blocks in your hands. They (the blocks) increase load, it changes your relationship with gravity.”
“(Most) people use props because they feel they can’t do something.” In that way, it’s easy to see how the prop becomes a crutch. “Maybe because we feel like we need to fix something. But the yoga postures need to fit within our practice, not the other way around.” That sounds like a challenge: to take full advantage of the studio props and modify my practice without holding back.
What’s Brendan’s favourite prop to use? “Stretchy bands are great, I like something that provides resistance,” he says, “but they’re not for every class.” That sounds like another challenge Brendan, see you in Stretchy Modo Flow. #noholdingback #stretchandflow #notreallycauseforathirdhashtag