Yoga blocks—along with many other yoga props, like yoga straps—first became popular in the 1970s with B.K.S. Iyengar.
The idea of using the yoga blocks is to help improve your alignment in different yoga postures so that you can get the most out of your posture.
In this blog we’ll be exploring whether yoga blocks are actually useful and necessary? And then getting the actual experience of using a yoga block by practicing five ways and postures that explain how to use a yoga block.
Want to jump right into the practice to find out what is a yoga block used for? You can follow along with my YouTube video to try 5 ways to use a yoga block.
So are yoga blocks useful and necessary for your practice?
Contrary to what you might think, using a yoga block won’t always make a posture feel easier. Rather it will help you work most optimally in a given yoga posture.
This means that often when you use a yoga block in a yoga posture (asana) you will be working at the most optimal point to develop your flexibility and strength. Often in these poses we are focusing on finding a very light connection with the block, perhaps just with our fingertips.
There are also other yoga postures however where you can use the yoga block in a more restorative way to help relax the body. In these postures we use the block in a different way as a support to allow our body to drop down into the block.
If you don't have a yoga block yet and are curious to practice along, you could always find something that's a similar shape as a block to use instead. You want to use a prop that is heavy and secure to give you support. So something like a hard book could be helpful rather than a soft cushion.
Should you use a cork or foam yoga block?
Over the years I’ve practiced using both cork and foam blocks. And although there are a few differences between the two there are in fact more similarities between them than differences.
Both cork and foam blocks come in the similar sizes with three different heights of the block. This means they can be used in the same way for the same yoga postures. They are also not significantly different in prices.
Where you will find some difference is the weight and texture of the material. Cork blocks are heavier and firmer while foam blocks are softer and lighter.
This is something that can be an advantage in certain postures like the Triangle Pose where you want to blocks to be stable and heavy. While in other yoga poses where you are using the block as a support like in Bridge Pose the softer foam blocks may feel better.
Either way these differences are quite minimal and you’re able to do all of the yoga postures below with foam and cork blocks. So don’t feel that you need to invest in both!
5 ways how to use a yoga block
We’re now going to explore five different poses and ways to use a yoga block with options available for beginners.
Easy Pose on a block
Sitting on a yoga block is a great way to give more height and space in the hips. By sitting up taller on the block it allows your knees to drop down below your hips and gives more space in your hip flexors and lower back to sit up straight.
Depending on the height of your yoga blocks and the openness of your hips, you might choose to sit on just one yoga block or you may choose to raise your hips and and sit up on two yoga blocks.
You can sit here with the eyes closed and focusing on your breath for around 5-10 minutes. Doing your best to keep some awareness on maintaining a posture with a long spine and heavy legs.
Triangle Pose with a block
Using a block in the Triangle Pose will help you to find more alignment in the posture so that you can work both on flexibility and stability.
We’ll start with the right foot forward. And then place a block close to the outside of your right foot. See if you can lengthen through the left side of your torso and reach your head forward towards your front foot.
Now your right hand drops down towards your block as you keep your right hand pretty much under your right shoulder.
Depending on the openness of your right hamstring (the muscle at the back of your right leg) you can determine which height you want to place the block (high, medium or low). You can also give yourself a bit more height by resting your right fingertips on the block (vs. your right palm).
See if you can keep your right hand light on the block while you reach your left arm up. Stay here for around 5 breaths and then switch to the opposite side.
Standing balance on block
Using a block to stand on for standing balance postures make the balance and stability much harder to find than doing the same yoga poses without the block. This makes them great to work on to help improve your balance.
Come to stand with your right foot on the block and actively spread your toes to help find as much connection as you can with your feet and the block.
Slowly shift your weight into your right leg and start to reach your left leg a little back. If this already feels quite challenging for your balance you can keep your left foot lightly on the ground and focus on shifting more of your weight to your right leg.
If you are comfortable here, see how it feels to slowly lift your left leg up and back as you lean forward with your upper body.
You could choose to reach your left arm down and keep your right hand on your hip. Or, if it helps your balance, arms could both be reaching out wide to the side.
Stay here for around five steady breaths and then switch to the opposite side. If you like you could repeat both sides several times.
Bound Angle Pose on a block
Like with the Easy Pose, you can use the extra height of the block under the hips for any seated pose. It works really well for the Bound Angle Pose which requires quite a lot of openness in the hips to be able to sit up tall and open out your inner thighs.
Come to sit on your block with your feet together and knees dropping out to the side. If you notice your lower back is rounding—which you can check by resting a hand on your lower back—you could either try sitting up higher with a second block or bringing your feet a bit further away from your hips.
From here keep using your inhale to lengthen up through your spine. And then on the exhale see if you can find some heaviness in your legs, hips and shoulders.
You could stay here for 5 – 20 breaths. And then slowly release and bring your knees back in towards each other.
Bridge Pose with a block
For this posture we’re going to use the block to help open the chest, while lifting and supporting your hips. This time we’re using the block in a more restorative way so that our hips can sink down towards the block.
Come to lie down on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Use your inhale to lift your hips up and with the help of your hands bring the block under the lower part of your back.
You can choose which height of the block you would like to use to help lift the hips. If it’s the first time you’re trying this I would recommend using the lowest height of the block. While if you’re practicing this more often you could experiment with a higher height.
You want to rest the block under the flat part of your lower back, known as your Sacrum. You then really allow the weight of your hips to drop down into the block, as well as sinking down the weight of your head, shoulders and feet.
You could close the eyes here and stay here for several minutes.
When you’re ready to come out, activate your legs, take the block away and come to rest with your back flat on the floor.
Practice tips for using a yoga block
I hope you found it interesting to explore different possibilities when using a yoga block. Hopefully what you noticed—particularly if you tried the poses out with a block—is that a yoga block isn't always about making it easier. It's about making the posture more effective in terms of alignment.
All of our bodies are different. We have different proportions. And so sometimes if for example, the arm length is slightly different to the leg length, it can be super helpful and more effective to use a block in a certain position.
In this practice we focused on using a yoga block for each posture to really allow you to explore what it feels like to use a yoga block and see what a diverse range of postures can be practiced with one.
However, there are definitely many benefits from also flowing through your practice and focusing on moving with your breath.
Yoga blocks create by default a more static and less flowing practice. Since you need to each time take your yoga block and align the position of it before entering the next yoga posture.
Therefore, it can be very valuable to focus on using props like the yoga block in some practices. So that you can focus on your alignment and technique. While in other practices choosing to use less props like yoga blocks to allow your practice to be more dynamic and flowing.
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