by Blakeney Schick
Almost since the day Steph slid a folded up blanket underneath my seat during one of my first classes at Mala, I’ve been a fan of props. My ego might not have loved them at first, but my body quickly appreciated the support and information that props can give me.
A few weeks ago, Angela had us working on forearm stand at the wall. It’s been a tricky pose for me. She gave us a whole bunch of prop options, and I soon found myself facing the wall in forearm dog with a block between my hands, a strap around my arms, and a blanket under the tips of my elbows. With so many props, I was certain that I’d have a well-supported forearm stand that was as comfortable in my body as standing on my arms could possibly be for me.
But after I got up into the pose, all of my body’s weight seemed to settle uncomfortably in the very tops of my shoulders. I came down, figuring that I simply needed to adjust the props. And then I made my way back up into the pose, but within seconds I felt the weight settle into my shoulders again. Confused, I asked Angela for help and she suggested, “Try it without the props.” Honestly, the thought hadn’t even occurred to me.
Often in our lives, we settle into routines — what we put in our coffee, yoga class on a certain night, laundry on Thursdays. Routines can help us bring order to our lives, creating a framework that we can organize around. And we do that on our mats as well. A blanket under the seat. Strap around the forearms. Blocks under the hands. Our svasana set-up. Yet our bodies change — we get stronger, more flexible, injured. We age and we heal. What worked last year or last month might not work now. What we needed then, we may not need today. Though we know that our lives change, we can often overlook the fact that, sometimes, our routines don’t.
That night, I ditched the props, and kicked up into forearm stand once again. Just me, my mat, and the wall. The tops of my shoulders were happy, even if my brain was still a little confused by the idea of taking away props, instead of adding them. But I had just what I needed.