In my yoga practice, I frequently use blocks and other props to support me in my poses. Not just in a restorative class, but in a flow class. I have no hang-up about using blocks or other props. I’m not naturally flexible, and my body doesn’t get into many of the poses with ease. Blocks keep my body in alignment in the poses.
Some people resist using blocks. They want to get into the pose on their own, without support. Perhaps because they believe that the pose only “counts” if you can do it on your own.
Here’s something you may not know about yoga:
Yoga has eight levels to it. The physical practice — referred to as asana — is only level three. That means that even if your physical practice is filled with Instagram-worthy poses in the most complex shapes, you’ve only mastered three of the eight levels. You’re not even 50% there.
The point of the physical practice to cultivate the ability to sit in meditation for long periods of time without pain or discomfort.
The core practice of yoga is not getting into the physical poses, but exploring the relationship between the body and mind as you move around on the mat.
– Where does resistance arise?
– Do you feel a difference between the right side and the left side?
– Where does the breath get stuck?
The Off-The-Mat Yoga Practice
Acknowledging that I need to use props to support my physical practice is, in itself, part of the practice of yoga. This is the part of the practice that I take with me into the other areas of my life — what I call the “off-the-mat” practice.
In my off-the-mat practice, the “props” aren’t yoga blocks or straps, but the people and networks who offer me their support in whichever area I need support in that moment.
Sometimes that support is offered unsolicited, like the way a yoga teacher might place a block under your hand or give you a manual adjustment to correct your alignment. Other times, I must ask for it.
For me, this is one of the hardest off-the-mat practices.
The ability to request and receive support — especially support in terms of favors — is a muscle that didn’t get worked much when I was younger.
I conditioned the habit of self-sufficiency: doing things alone, without seeking help or favors.
The Underlying Beliefs
Underlying that habit of “going at it alone” are beliefs about what it means to ask for and receive support. Beliefs such as:
- I’ll burden people with my problems.
- I don’t want to be a “taker.”
- It’s better to give than to receive.
- I need to prove that I can do this on my own.
- If I seek help with this then it means I’m not a good [insert your role here].
These beliefs, and others that prevent us from seeking and receiving support, are destructive and not based in reality.
Everyone I know who struggles with asking for and receiving support is a giver: quick to step up and contribute and help where necessary. You don’t even have to ask; they offer. And they offer because they sincerely want to help.
By refusing support, we deny those people who want to give the opportunity to do so.
Whether it’s the help of a friend or a block in yoga practice, we cannot be too proud to ask for support.
Letting go of these limiting beliefs about receiving brings a tremendous sense of freedom. It lightens the load we carry.
It’s a service to the people who offer you support and to yourself.
I’m not saying it’s easy. All that conditioning requires a lot of undoing.
That’s why it’s a practice.