I Give You Props with Emma Boyum

Ever been curious about props? Modo teacher, Emma Boyum, takes a moment to shed light on those mysterious items lingering at the back of the hot room.


What is a prop?

I like to think of props as my own little Keebler elves on my mat. They are tools to help me navigate certain poses, whether it’s to help me balance when I’m feeling a bit wobbly or move a bit deeper when I’m feeling ready. Props help students feel supported and can provide the bridge to move deeper into asana practice.

Which yoga props are available at Modo?

In the hot room, we have blocks and straps. The ways in which to use these props are endless.

What are the biggest misconceptions about props?

There are a couple of misconceptions I see/hear when students first approach props. The first is that they are intimidating — they aren’t sure what the hell to do with them. This makes sense! If you have never been taught which pedal does what in a car, how are you going to know how to drive? This falls to teachers, to teach students not only poses but how-to best access them based on their body’s needs.

The other misconception often comes from students more familiar with an asana practice and who view props as a weakness or crutch. Again, I think it is imperative for teachers to give students permission to play with props. I still remember one of my first Modo practices, when Philly D told us in order to get into Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose), he had to stack 4 blocks under him to sit up. Like I said, sometimes props provide support and sometimes they provide room to move deeper!

What are the top poses for using blocks and why?

I always grab a block for every class I attend. Honestly, I could probably find a way to use a block in every pose of the Modo series. To keep it brief, the floor series is a great place to explore using a block. Placing a block under the bum in Supta Virasana like Phil (see above) or beneath the back while reclining can help some students relax into this stretch of the quads rather than clenching through it. A block to rest your chest on in half pigeon pose can have the same effect. I like to think of the block as an extension of the floor. A way to bring the floor to you if it’s not quite there. Please don’t be shy! Our teachers are there to help you with your entire practice, including props.

What are the top poses for using straps and why?

Perhaps less common, but no less useful, straps are almost the opposite of blocks. Instead of moving the floor to your limbs, a strap allows your limbs to grow. Think of Natarajasana (dancer’s pose): if your arm doesn’t seem quite long enough to get a hold of your foot or you have limited shoulder mobility, scoop up your foot with a strap! When moving into paschimottanasana (seated forward bend), you can hook a strap around the soles of your feet to get the extension and length through your arms to get the benefit of your forward fold.

How do I know if using a prop is right for me?

For me, yoga is about discovery and play. If you have a question about a pose, please ask! We as teachers love to figure out the best way for students to benefit from their practice. Also, pick-up a block on your way to your mat and give yourself permission to play. Try a block between your legs in Setu Bandhasana (bridge pose) to activate your inner thighs. Put it under your feet as you explore Bakasana (crow pose). A simple block and/or strap can transform your practice!

Do I need to rent props? What do I do with them at the end of class?

All the props are free to use at Modo. Only two main rules: first, we ask that you take only what you need to allow enough for everyone, and second, that you place them near the back wall on your way out to make cleaning easier for the EEs. We always clean them before putting them away for the next class, and it makes the transition between classes much quicker!

Interview by Kim Richards