Intensifying And Deepening Poses
Yoga Blocks Add Length And Height
Lets revisit the forward fold. It doesnt take a full range of motion to get your hands to the ground. To continue to do work, Iyengar advises us to move our hands behind us.
But that changes the angle. Instead, you can raise the floor by standing on the low level block, which gives you another 4 inches to reach down.
The same concept applies in a seated forward fold, paschimottanasana. By putting a block in front of your feet, youve added more work and thus more effort is necessary. The effect is one where you are lengthening your legs or adding onto your feet however, you want to look at it.
Another great way to use weight is to put your front foot on a block in a low lunge. This adds to the hip extension feel of the leg that is behind you.
Using a block to add height, i.e., raising the ground strategically, allows you to change the poses angle and thereby what is having to work. To see this in action, just do chaturanga, but with your feet on blocks. Four limb staff postures got a brand new bag.
Which Type Of Yoga Block Should You Choose
If I were to buy only one set of blocks, which is two, then I would choose premium foam blocks.
You do want two blocks because you want to place both hands or feet on blocks. Using one block introduces odd imbalances and angles that are not helpful, particularly to newer students.
You want a premium yoga block because there is a significant quality difference between many cheap foam blocks you see in big box stores and a yoga block you will be happy with. And more than likely, youre only ever going to need to buy one set of yoga blocks.
How do you tell a cheap block? Cheap blocks are squishy, which means they tend not to be great support, do not provide much resistance, and are too light to add significant challenge.
Cheap blocks fail all three uses of accessibility, support, and strength.
A premium yoga foam block is dense yet soft. It excels at giving support because its strong yet giving. And they are stable, so youll trust that you can stand on them or use them for cultivating strength. They are the best of both worlds.
If challenge was my main goal, I would choose cork blocks, which are heavier than foam blocks.
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Which Yoga Block To Buy
There are a lot of yoga blocks on the market and it really depends what you’re looking for. The blocks in this post are these, and I think they’re a decent price point. They are foam, which is not a natural resource, and I have had them for two years and they have a couple indents and scrapes. They’re lightweight , but the wear and tear does show.
At a higher price point are the bamboo yoga blocks. The advantage here is that they’re pretty durable and they’re all natural. The disadvantage is that it costs $18.00 for one.
Even higher is the cork yoga block. The advantage is that they’re very durable and are all natural. The cork blocks I’ve seen have been pretty solid- not exactly heavy but definitely not something you’d want to travel with. However, on the plus side, this means they provide a solid foundation and they’re not going to slip anywhere. The only disadvantage I see is that on amazon they’re going for $27.00 each.
Whatever brand or type you choose, I recommend buying two so you can use them for seated postures and arm balance work as well.
How Many Yoga Blocks Do I Need
Youre going to need two blocks for the majority of yoga modifications. This covers all your bases from balancing postures, strengthening poses, and more.
What you dont want is to be in a pose, where you need more support, and not have the necessary block to help bring the pose into your range of flexibility or help you with balance.
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Do You Need 1 Or 2 Yoga Blocks
I would definitely say if youre going to invest in yoga blocks, invest in a pair of two. Many of the ways yoga blocks are used in helping you deepen into poses usually require one block, but the majority of the ways to use them for strengthening and improving flexibility in poses require two, one on each side.
Luckily, usually when you buy a set of yoga blocks, they automatically come with two, unless you are buying more high end bamboo or wooden blocks.
Foam Yoga Blocks: Pros & Cons
Foam yoga blocks are still useful, but theyre just not as useful or as high quality as cork blocks. Foam blocks are lighter, not as easy to stand on, and quite unstable for really leaning your weight into them.
The only reason Id use a foam block is to brace my knee against the floor for certain modifications like a low-lunge, where a cork block might be uncomfortable. However, you could still put a towel over your cork block and get the same effect.
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Downward Going Through Canine For Tight Hamstrings
Yoga practitioners with tight hamstrings will particularly recognize the discharge you get from merely placing a wedge beneath your heels. Place the wedge beneath your toes together with your toes dealing with down the slope. The elevated heels will really feel much less pressure and stress as they open up the hamstrings.
Extended Hand To Big Toe
- Create a loop on the end of your yoga strap and put your foot into the circle.
- Gently lift your knee while holding on to the strap with your hand on the same side. Slowly straighten your leg, and use both hands to make the pose.
- Once you are comfortable, place the opposite hand to your waist while holding on to the yoga strap with one hand.
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Which Yoga Blocks To Use
Theres a variety of yoga blocks you can buy and they all have their own special claim. But the reality is you dont need anything special. Yoga blocks come in the standard 9 x 6 x 4 inch size and as long as the material can support your weight, youre good to go.
The most common materials for yoga blocks are foam and cork. The foam versions are the cheapest by far. However, they dont last as long, stain easily, and theyre not as good for the environment.
Cork yoga blocks are usually more money but cork naturally kills bacteria and its good for the environment. No matter what material you choose though, they all get the job done for the most part.
One thing I do want to say here is that if youre especially new and not very flexible, you might want to get a AND a set of blocks. The yoga wheel is taller and helps you with things like in addition to normal asanas. The wheel is a good starter and you can work into the blocks in as you gain more flexibility.
To Prevent Injury Use A Yoga Block
Instead of that future hospital visit scenario, I described above, what can you do? Use a yoga block. By putting a block on a tall setting on the ground, youve raised the floor and made it easier for you to reach down.
But, you say, Im still not touching my toes. True, but heres the beautiful two-for-one deal you are getting. You are helping to prevent injury because you are not forcing yourself down and rounding your back. And, you are now in a better position to do the work of the posture.
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Lengthen And Be Free In Camel Pose
I find Camel the least forgiving pose on my low back and love the way this variation feels through my whole spine.
Not only are your heels higher so that you dont have to bend back as far and can keep the spine lifted, having the feet lifted higher than the knees also puts a little more weight in the legs, making it easier to press the hips forward and keep the thigh bones straight up and down.
Turning the blocks sideways and flat on your mat with the narrow edges together, place your feet up on the blocks with your toes curled under. Once in Camel Pose with your hands on your heels, press down strongly to lift and broaden your chest, lengthening your spine up and out of your pelvis.
Next time you head to your mat, grab a pair of yoga blocks and try one or two of the poses above and let us know how the experience goes.
Image credit: Nir Livni Photography / Yogini: Meagan McCrary
How To Use Yoga Blocks To Deepen Your Practice
Yoga Teacher and 500 hour – Master Trainer
Yoga instructor and healthy living advocate View more
Yoga props are not just for beginners. In reality, using props can benefit even the most advanced student. Whether you want to challenge yourself more by using props or you want to slow things down for a more restorative class, props come in handy.
Below are some ways even more experienced students can use yoga blocks to make the practice more challenging.
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Playing With Props: 5 Fun Ways To Use Yoga Blocks
Meagan McCraryMind, Body, Movement Coach
Playful, passionate and practical, Meagan keeps yoga accessible and fun. View more
Yoga props are great, versatile tools that help students create certain actions to deepen their understanding and expression of asanas. Props also allow us to experience the postures we need a little more support in as we build the necessary strength to do them on our own.
I myself use a block under the bottom hand in Ardha Chandrasana and Ardha Chandra Chapasana, not because I lack the hamstring length to reach the floor , but so that I can create a stronger lift through my side waist and revolve the entire pose more open.
And I always use a block between my upper inner thighs in Camel to keep my knees from splaying and my low back safe.
While it can be a struggle to get students to use props because theyre seen as crutches for pose modifications, I highly encourage using props when teachers ask you towhether you think you need to or not, and regardless of how well you can already do a pose.
In fact, teachers often use props to emphasize key actions in the body and alignment you may not feel otherwise. Here are five ideas for practicing with yoga blocks.
Yoga Blocks Create Asymmetry
Asymmetry, where the two sides of your body are doing different things, is a classic way to introduce progressive overload.
Think of plank as symmetrical. Bend your elbows to a low plank, chaturanga type, posture, and its still symmetrical. However, its more difficult because your muscles are having to work harder because of the angle.
Add more asymmetry by placing a block, low setting underneath one of your hands. Youll feel one of your shoulders working noticeably harder. Want more? Lift the opposite leg of the hand on the block.
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Yoga Block Buying Recommendations
First, we always believe in supporting your local yoga studio by buying there. REI is another excellent place to purchase yoga blocks and equipment.
The premium foam block we recommend is the hugger mugger 4 in. foam block.
I have purchased over 100 of these for our studio, and students love them.
Its a standard size, 4 x 9 x 6 and works well for an average size person.
Remember you want to get two blocks of the same kind.
If you have a smaller frame, consider the hugger mugger 3 in foam block.
Larger frame individuals or people who like a little extra height to their blocks choose the hugger mugger 5 in. block blue foam yoga block.
For cork blocks, I recommend both the manduka cork yoga block or the hugger mugger. I like how the manduka feels over the hugger mugger cork block, but either one will do right by you. Manduka also has a narrower version of cork block available.
Finally, if you want a block purely for support, you will want the unblock by manduka. It has a shaped side and top, which contours more to your body shape. This is more comfortable for your wrists and back.
The Best Yoga Block Sets:
Fledo yoga Blocks
Fledo Yoga Blocks are simple Eva foam which is dense and more than capable of supporting your weight. Theyre also lightweight and offered in a number of great colors.
Manduka Cork Yoga Blocks With Strap
If Im being honest, this is my favorite set of blocks. Cork is naturally antimicrobial, better for the environment and this set includes a yoga strap .
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Triangle Pose With A Block
In my classes I see students in triangle pose reaching their hand all the way to the floor rather than keeping their hand on their shin or thigh.
More often than not, this takes the body out of the intended benefit of the pose, which is to create length by stacking the body.
With a yoga block you can extend your arm further than your thigh while at the same time keep the length and integrity in the pose.
Reasons To Use A Yoga Block
- To support range of motion and proper alignment, allowing you to engage the right muscles to avoid injury
- To make yoga accessible to all levels
- To help deepen poses by bringing the floor to you
- To assist as stepping stones to learning more advanced poses
- Alongside other props for restorative postures
- To increase intensity for core strengthening activities
Anything you need, theres a block for that.
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How Many Yoga Blocks Do You Need
The number of yoga blocks youll need will depend primarily on the yoga pose youll be performing. On average, youll only need about two blocks. With the exception of cork blocks, youll likely never need to replace them long-term.
You may, however, want more than a couple of yoga blocks if you want to experiment with blocks of different sizes and/or materials.
Yoga Blocks Can Help Improve Your Form And Reduce The Risk Of Injury
In yoga, maintaining proper form is of the utmost importance. Whether you are new to yoga or trying a new pose, at first it can be challenging to maintain the proper form in a new position as your body may not have the muscles it needs to hold the form adequately. By integrating a yoga block into your practice, you can give yourself extra support in a challenging pose that could otherwise cause you to injure yourself.
As you use your yoga block, the stabilizer muscles and flexibility your body needs to hold the form properly will continue to build. You can adjust the height of the yoga block accordingly until you no longer need it. If you attempt to push yourself to hold a pose that is too challenging, you can unintentionally injure yourself by sacrificing your form.
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Elevated Butterfly Pose Or Bound Angle Pose
ObjectiveThis pose is designed to open the hips through external rotation. The hip flexors are gently stretched and tension is released as the pose is held for as long as it is comfortably available.
Go deep!Using blocks in this pose encourages thigh adductors and IT bands to relax, bring the practitioner to a deeper level of hip flexibility.
Practical applicationBegin by sitting on the floor, soles of the feet drawn together and close to the body, allowing the knees to fall away from the midline. Place a rectangle block under each ankle, raising the feet above hip level. Maintain a neutral back as you fold forward, being mindful of your bodys signals as you progress deeper into the pose.