Almost every yoga studio will offer you a strap to support your practice—to provide traction, extend your reach, or stabilize your limbs. But a dowel offers some of the same benefits—and more.
Like a strap, a dowel can be used to close kinetic chains of force. A kinetic chain includes the parts of your body that have an effect on one another when you move. Moving your foot, for example, affects your ankle and other parts of your leg. An open kinetic chain is when a body part moves freely and isn’t in contact with any stabilizing force. Think, raising your arms up in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I). A closed chain is when the body is connected to something else. In Warrior, your feet and the floor represent a closed chain.
Closing a kinetic chain gives you more feedback to increase your proprioception—your ability to know where you are in relationship to your environment. For example, if you hold a dowel and reach your arms up overhead, you have a better sense of where your hands are in relationship to each other than if you reach up without the prop.
A dowel also gives you something to pull on to create intrinsic force. You can isometrically squeeze, pull, or rotate it as you practice.
In this practice, planting the dowel on the floor gives you additional stability and leverage. It acts like a third limb and can be used to create a closed kinetic chain that connects your force to the earth. Holding the dowel in both hands connects force between your arms. That feedback and support is then leveraged into increased mobilization of your shoulders, thoracic spine, and hips as we play with creative variations of some familiar poses.