Give yourself some props

Published on Thursday, 14 August 2014 10:29 - Written by By DEBBIE LEE TOWNSEND, guest columnist

I consider myself a yogi.

That self-proclaimed title has been a long time coming, and I want to share with you the journey that led to being comfortable with such a public statement.

The truth is, I have been practicing yoga off and on about 30 years.

My standard operating procedure was to start a yoga class, attempt every pose with the perfection of the instructor and then become discouraged and quit, at which point I would vow to get in better shape and attempt yoga perfection in the future.

Somewhere along the line, I would decide yoga would help me get in better shape and sign up for yet another class.

After a time, the pendulum would swing to discouragement and, voila, magically disappear.

Then I found my current yoga teacher, and she taught me about props, modified poses and celebrating little victories.

Let’s talk about props for a minute.

In today’s vernacular, there are several meanings for that word. For the sake of this writing, I want to talk about three different connotations.

According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the following definitions apply to this word. (I paraphrase) A prop is something or someone that supports something or someone. In present-day jargon the word also means proper recognition or proper respect. So let’s apply them to yoga and life.

In yoga, props are blocks, cushions, blankets, bolsters, chairs, etc., that one can position to allow them to accomplish at least a modified version of pretty much any yoga pose imaginable.

They are used to support the body for stability and proper alignment while allowing a person to reap the benefits intended by each pose.

Many of the poses accomplished using props are literally called “gentle” variations. It took me quite a while to allow myself to use props without feeling like a failure. Then I started feeling the benefits and gaining empowerment from each pose I accomplished.

The more I used props and the braver I became, the more adventure yoga became, and the better I became at each pose.

I even got to a point where I was able to slowly remove the props on some poses. Each time I braved a new pose or took a pose a little further than my previous comfort zone, my yoga teacher would celebrate me with accolades, or props.

Pretty soon I realized I was gaining confidence and becoming more comfortable celebrating little victories for myself, including the occasional outburst of song or laughter or happy dance.

What an amazing difference it made in my yoga practice to be accepted and appreciated with all my physical limitations and encouraged to be the best yogi I can be, even if it means being gentle and modifying poses.

My yoga teacher taught me that yoga is not a competition; it is a journey.

Recently, I realized the same is true for life. Too often we compare ourselves to others and consider ourselves to fall short, often leading to defeatism.

We are hard on ourselves. We expect too much too quickly. We don’t make allowances for individualism or the sometimes harsh modifications we’ve endured by living life.

My point is, we all need to give ourselves some props. Whether it is some little tool that allows us to accomplish something that would be too difficult otherwise or that little pat on the back we need to keep on keeping on.

And we need to allow for the fact we will probably find props, in all their connotations, needed more often as we age.

We need to be gentle with ourselves, accepting of our limitations, find ways around them and give ourselves accolades at every little accomplishment.

May we all learn to be people who use props and give props readily. The props around me honor and give props to the props around you. May you be blessed with many more.


Debbie Lee Townsend is a Hawkins resident. YES! column submissions may be sent to .