Sometimes it’s nice to receive a little support. By Victoria Jackson
When I go shopping with my husband he always insists on carrying the bags. “I can carry them!” is always my immediate retort, feminist hackles rising. And his smiling answer is always the same: “I know you can, but you don’t have to”. His instinct is to offer loving support, whereas mine is to dig deep and grit my teeth, somehow needing to prove my strength. I see this tendency in my yoga practice too, so I’m currently exploring whether I could let go of the need for ‘heavy lifting’ all the time there and instead find more lightness, love and ease.
To help with this I’ve been embracing yoga props, my strap and my blocks and my bolster… and even making use of a dining chair. I’ve set myself a bit of a challenge to see how I might use a prop even in poses where I wouldn’t ordinarily consider it. The question I ask myself in each asana is how could I find greater ease and how could I use a prop to take some of the strain. It makes for a slower practice, to be sure, but it’s waking up different bits of my body and making even simple poses feel like something new. It’s also prompted me to enquire more deeply into ideas of compassion (ahimsa) and surrender (ishvara pranidhana). I have had to let go a bit (quite a bit!) about how I want to look on the outside in order to focus more on how I feel on the inside – and to give myself permission to explore this softer way of being.
It starts with Child’s pose, relaxing tension in my neck with a block under my forehead and it ends with a bolster under my knees in savasana. In between these well-known restorative modifications I’ve been getting as creative as I could with my props.
I started off simply using the blocks to sit on, which was great in almost any seated pose. Or I placed my hands on them to take the strain out of standing poses like Triangle or balancing in Half Moon. Resting my head on the block whenever I was upside-down, for example in Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold, made me feel supported and allowed me to relax more. And my back loved it when I tried blocks under my hands in Downward Facing Dog. I used the strap to make my arms longer in various binds or in reaching for my toes: this helped me open up more gently and not pull on my shoulder sockets as usual. Feeling more adventurous, I even tried Tree pose with a block on my head to remind me to keep my neck long and my chin up – and to transition in and out of this pose gracefully and precisely. You can imagine how that went…!
But despite the dropped blocks and a bit of a strap tangle – or perhaps because of this, since it made me laugh – I’ve found myself able to let go of some tensions during my practice. It might not be quite what Patanjali meant by sthira sukham asanam (steady and comfortable pose), but it’s definitely heading in the right direction.
Victoria Jackson will forever be a beginner yogini