Breath or prana is one of the most important aspects of yoga. Whether you can contort…
Yoga today is very different from how it was just a few decades ago. Modern yoga practitioners have so many tools to help with your asana practice no matter what body shape or size you are or what physical condition you are in. Useful tools like the humble yoga block are now indispensable for many who practice modern postural yoga. Yoga block uses for support and stability in various poses can help making asana more attainable no matter if you are a beginner or more seasoned yoga practitioner.
Learn how the modern yoga block came to be and find out how they can help you progress in your yoga asana practice with these simple tips.
History of the Yoga Block
The first yoga blocks were called bricks and were made of wood. They first came onto the western yoga scene around the 1970s, especially with the rise in popularity of Iyengar Yoga.
BKS Iyengar was known for encouraging the use of props to help support your body in different yoga asana. In the early days of Iyengar yoga, props were mostly made of makeshift materials.
The first wooden yoga bricks were heavy, difficult to transport, and even uncomfortable to use. But Iyengar encouraged his followers to practice with them because they were designed to support your body and aid you into deeper expressions of alignment.
Although they are not necessary to advance in your yoga asana practice, they are extremely helpful for those who are beginners or who have injuries and other physical limitations.
Ways to Use Your Yoga Block to in Your Asana Practice
1. Bring the Ground Closer to You
Uttanasana / Forward Ford
Yoga blocks are helpful when you have tight hamstrings and can’t reach the ground with your legs straight in Forward Fold. Place one or two blocks to rest your palms on an elevated surface instead of on the ground.
Gradually lower the height or remove the blocks when your hamstrings lengthen after regular practice.
Trikonasana / Triangle Pose
Instead of placing your hand on your shin or ankle in Trikonasana, place a yoga block in front or behind your front leg. This will allow you to place your lower hand on the block in proper alignment instead of struggling with the triangle shape.
Ustrasana / Camel Pose
Ustrasana is a deep back bend for many who practice yoga, but you can make this asana more attainable in your practice with yoga blocks. Place two blocks on both outer sides of your ankles to place your hands on.
This will allow you to place your weight on your hands with less of an arch in your back than if you had your hands on your heels.
2. Help Strengthen and Stabilize Asana
Setu Bandhasana / Bridge
Put a yoga block in between your inner thighs in Setu Bandhasana to squeeze as you push your hips towards the sky to bring stability to your back bend. This will help you minimize the use of your quadriceps and outer thighs.
It will also help you notice better if you are lifting with a neutral spine which is what you want to achieve in Bridge Pose.
Navasana / Bridge
Strengthen your core by placing a block in between your knees in Navasana (Boat Pose). For even more of a challenge, place the block in between your ankles instead of your knees.
You can also hold a block in your outstretched arms and raise it up and down in sync with your breath for a more dynamic Boat Pose.
Chaturanga Dandasana / Four Limbed Staff Pose
Chaturanga is a challenging asana that helps build upper body strength. But it also requires you to have some degree of upper body stability in order to practice safely to begin with.
To help keep your shoulders and chest at the correct level place a block underneath your sternum. This will help you concentrate on hugging your elbows inwards without your whole upper body collapsing.
3. For Lift and Elevation
Padmasana is a seated cross-legged pose that is ideal for meditation. It calms the mind and helps you deepen your asana and meditation practice. But it can also be a core strengthening asana when you lift your seat off the ground with your arms.
It will help to place your hands on yoga blocks to extend your arm length for the lift. Make sure your blocks are stable and your hands do not slip off the blocks when you practice this variation.
Bakasana / Crow Pose
Place your feet on a yoga block when preparing to lift off into Crow Pose. This will help you gradually get used to transferring your weight into your arms without lifting your feet off the floor.
This is especially useful if you still have a fear of falling onto your face if you try to get into this arm balance for the first time.
Salamba Sarvangasana / Supported Shoulderstand
Use a block to practice a variation of this classic yoga asana to lessen the risk on your cervical spine and neck.
Place the yoga block underneath your sacrum to give your back extra support as you elevate your legs. This will allow you to concentrate on keeping your legs straight instead of struggling with keeping your hips over your shoulders.
4. Something to Sit On
Virasana / Hero’s Pose
Sit on a yoga block in Hero’s Pose to ease the strain from your ankles and lessen the stretch for your thighs. This will help you stay in the pose longer and get into a meditative state as you gently develop more mobility.
Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana / Pigeon Pose
Pigeon is great for opening up tight hips, but is often difficult to maintain for longer than a second if you don’t have the hip mobility to begin with.
Help keep proper alignment and support your seat with a yoga block under the sitting bone of your front leg. It will help stretch your hips even while they are elevated.
Baddha Konasana / Butterfly Pose
Sit on a yoga block to make Bound Angle Pose or Butterfly Pose more comfortable for tight hips. Alternatively, you may also place yoga blocks underneath your knees to support them if they cannot open up comfortably yet.
5. Support for Restorative Yoga Poses
Tadasana / Mountain Pose
Maintain stillness while in Tadasana by placing a yoga block between your feet and isometrically squeeze your feet towards each other. This activates a Pada Bandha, or Foot Lock, which helps ground you and keep your awareness on your connection with the earth.
Balasana / Child’s Pose
Place a block underneath your chest or head while in Child’s Pose for extra support and to help keep your seat bones in contact with your heels. You may also hold blocks under your hands to stretch your arms and back while in this resting pose.
Blocks can help make your Final Resting Pose a chest and heart opener at the same time with this Floating Savasana variation.
Place a yoga block underneath your head and another one to support your upper back between your shoulder blades. This will elevate your upper body slightly and allow your shoulders to relax which expands your chest.
Conclusion on yoga block uses
Don’t be afraid to make a pair of yoga blocks your constant companion in your yoga asana practice. They will help you find new depths and expressions in your poses and help you with more challenging asana as you develop strength and flexibility.