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Can a Yoga Prop Help 'Prop' Up Your Practice?
By: Della Menechella

Some people may wonder if using a yoga prop can help them get more out of their
practice. My personal opinion is yes.

B.K.S. Iyengar introduced the yoga prop as a means of supporting proper
alignment of the joints and bones during postures. Maintaining proper alignment is key to reducing the possibility of injury and to allowing you to get deeper into the poses. Props are especially useful for beginners, for people who do not have a great deal of
flexibility, for those who are recovering from injuries, and for those with special physical
needs.

Typical Yoga Props

Yoga Block I use this yoga prop often, especially when I am doing a
Forward Bend and my hamstrings are not yet flexible enough to allow me to comfortably touch my hands to the floor. Yoga blocks are a great aid to help you maintain proper alignment in challenging poses. You can stack several blocks to gain height or use them to support you in certain poses.

Yoga Strap Another yoga prop that I use often is a strap. Straps can
help you reach limbs such as feet and hands during certain postures where you have limited flexibility. They help you maintain proper alignment and help you lengthen your body. I always use a strap for one of my favorite poses Cow Pose because I am not yet able to grasp my hands behind my back. The use of the strap allows my arms to be
comfortable so I can fully relax forward in the pose.

Yoga Ball - This yoga prop is extremely versatile and it is one that I use several times each week. It is great for developing core strength because you need to recruit significant muscle fibers when doing postures in order to keep the ball from rolling and you from falling. It can be very useful for beginners and those recovering
from injuries because it helps with support and alignment. A yoga ball is also great for stretching because you can get an extended range of motion.

Blankets - Although I don't often use them, blankets can offer many
benefits. They can help support you in poses, they provide padding, and they also provide warmth so you can be very comfortable in restorative poses.

Less Common Yoga Props

Backbend Benches - They help to support you during backbends.
They reduce straining and allow your spine to maintain proper alignment while
increasing flexibility in your shoulders, chest and the front of your body.

Eye Pillows - They are soft cushions that you place on your eyes to help you focus inward and achieve a greater sense of peace and calmness during relaxation poses.

There are times when using a yoga prop can help you deepen your practice, and
during those times, you might want to consider using one or all of these props. At other times, you might not feel the need to use them. The important thing is to pay attention to
your body and to respond to what it needs each time you practice.

About the Author

Della Menechella is a yoga and fitness enthusiast who has been involved in fitness for over thirty years. Here website http://www.beauty-fitness-yoga-source.com/ is filled with practical information about how you can make yoga and fitness a positive part of your life.


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The Power of Stretching    - Dave Snape

 

Your muscles ache from a good stretch. This is quite
normal and is part of the process. Stretching has
seemingly been with us and particularly with athletes
since the beginning of time.

A very key point to good stretching is to hold the
stretch for at least seventeen seconds. This is a
pearl of wisdom gleaned from a ballet teacher a few
years back. She said that any stretch under 17
seconds was just not effective.

The 17 second rule is exceeded in the high intensity
Bikram's yoga where stretches are held for about 30
seconds. Don't forget the high level of heat that is
used in Bikram's to extract that last little bit of
stretch out of your muscles. An interesting twist that
is not necessary to gain benefits from stretching. But,
it can't hurt, right?

So what kind of benefits can you expect from
stretching? That's an easy one. Have you ever seen the
movie, Blood Sport? Did you know that Frank Dux could
truly stretch his body to the extreme. The actor that
played him was quite elastic as well.


Great elasticity is also something you might see in
well trained Spetsnaz (Russian) agents. They often work
out with Russian kettlebells too. They are for superior
strength gains and the ability to withstand ballistic
shocks.

Why are stretching and flexibility considered important
to these people? Stretching gives one the ability to
have explosive power available at one's fingertips
without the need to warm up. Of course most of us are
not martial artists or agents. But, you'll be happy to
know there are plenty of other benefits.

Let me give you an example. After learning to sit in
the full lotus position for long periods of time, my
ankles became very flexible. One day I was walking
along and my left foot fell into a pothole. This mishap
pushed my ankle sideways to about 90 degrees from it's
normal position.

Amazingly, this didn't even hurt, not one bit. If my
ankle hadn't been so flexible, I may have suffered a
sprained ankle. At the very least, it would have hurt
for days.

Key point: stretching helps you to avoid injuries.
Not only that but if you do have a muscle, tendon or
ligament injury it should heal faster, theoretically
speaking.

Stretching actually grows the ligaments, tendons and
muscles being stretched. They really grow longer over
time.

Check with your physician before undertaking any type
of exercise, including stretching.

Here is some good instructional material on stretching:
http://tinyurl.com/6c6kq
 

Dave Snape

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