How to Use Yoga Blocks
Yoga blocks have been growing in popularity since their conception in the United States in the 1970s. A true staple of modern yoga, these blocks were created to make poses more comfortable and accessible. While yoga can certainly be a minimalist practice, using props like yoga blocks can really enhance your experience.
Besides your mat, yoga blocks are some of the best companions to your practice. They can add support, an extra challenge, or a bit more comfort to the poses in your usual flow, making them an excellent prop for beginners and pros alike.
Support & Alignment
Blocks are most often employed during a typical yoga class for supplemental support. Sometimes we sacrifice alignment to achieve poses that are just beyond our abilities, ending up straining and potentially injuring ourselves. During poses like triangle pose or lizard pose, If we can’t quite reach the floor, the blocks cover the difference so we can still get a great stretch without rounding our backs and putting unnecessary strain on our spine. As the stretches become easier, you can shorten the distance by turning the blocks, since they are cuboids, they will have 3 different heights to play with.
We mentioned that these yoga accessories can help with support and alignment, and this goes hand in hand with comfort and safety. You can use yoga blocks to guide and safeguard certain poses in your practice. For example, in pigeon pose, you can pop a block under the hip of your bent leg to relieve your knee of some pressure. Alternatively, you can use them to steady yourself in balance challenges like half moon pose.
Yoga blocks are perfect for beginners, as they allow us to build up our strength where our flexibility would typically limit us, and vice versa, they allow us to build flexibility where our strength hasn’t quite met us yet. On the other end of the spectrum, blocks are also an excellent tool for further enhancing an advanced practice.
In addition to providing support, theycan heighten the intensity of your flow. By simply holding a block between your knees during chair or bridge pose or squeezing a block between your forearms in boat pose, you are lighting up additional muscle groups and really getting the most out of your workout.
Deepen Your Stretch
Yoga blocks can really come in handy when you feel as though you have maxed out your stretch on a given pose and still want to go a little deeper. Adding a yoga block in the right spot can give you a new flexibility challenge. For example, you can deepen the shoulder stretch in child’s pose by sliding a yoga block under your elbows. Similarly, standing on a yoga block (or two) during a forward fold gives you a couple more inches to reach toward the floor. Yoga blocks are an incredible tool for those trying to improve their flexibility.
When Are Yoga Blocks Used
Blocks are a very functional piece of equipment in all forms of yoga, but some styles rely more heavily on them for practice.
Yin Yoga uses many props, including yoga blocks. While two blocks are usually sufficient for most yogis, it is not uncommon in yin yoga to use several sets at a time. Blocks are used in this form of yoga to help the body settle into a stretch or pose. Typically supporting the head, hips, or back, yoga blocks add support where it is needed so we can more fully sink into our stretch.
In addition to yoga, blocks can also be utilized in Pilates, physical therapy, and other various workouts. In many cases, yoga blocks can be used as lightweight replacements for medicine balls or even foam rollers. You can prop a couple of yoga blocks under your lower and mid spine to stretch your chest or squeeze a block between your thighs during boat pose in Pilates. It is a very simple piece of equipment with seemingly infinite uses.
While we encourage you to eventually find the best yoga blocks for your practice, in the meantime, there are quite a few close substitutes (and you might already have some lying around your house).
Towels – a rolled-up towel can be used in place of a yoga block under your back for chest opening stretches, or a folded-up towel or thick cushion can substitute for hip support in pigeon pose and other similar support/comfort functions.
Books – This replacement isn’t as seamless if you need two books of the same size, but a stack of books can easily replace yoga blocks in poses like forward fold. You can cover them with a cloth for added comfort.
Steps – In cases where portability isn’t a priority, you can use steps or stairs in your home in lieu of yoga blocks. Depending on what is available to you, you can potentially use a step in your home to “bring the floor closer to you” in poses like half moon, forward fold, and others.
Foam Roller – With all the benefits and functions of a rolled towel, a foam roller can also serve as a pillar of support for triangle pose, half moon pose, and forward fold. It can also be used under your elbows to deepen the stretch of childs pose.
The Building Blocks of a Tailored Yoga Experience
We already know that you don’t need much for a fulfilling yoga practice. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on gear and equipment as you do in other sports or fitness regimens. Though it might seem too good to be true, a couple of blocks and a soft place to practice might truly be all you need for a great yoga experience.
Frequently asked questions
Yoga blocks are a simple, versatile, and effective addition to any yoga practice, or any workout regimen for that matter. They help to support, add comfort, deepen stretches, or add a challenge to your flow. Your creativity is the only limit to the benefits of this fundamental tool.
While manufacturers have made leaps and bounds in sustainability in the last few years, foam production has nothing on cork. Cork is natural, can be easily and harmlessly recycled, and is even biodegradable. Cork is slightly heavier than the alternative EVA foam blocks, but if portability isn’t your main concern, the environmental impact may be worth the extra weight.
Typically yoga blocks are available for purchase in sets of 2. This is usually sufficient for most yogis, but some Yin Yoga poses call for a larger number. If you’re looking for maximum comfort and support, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to grab a couple of sets.