While it is true that the original yogis did not practice with such things as yoga mats or yoga blocks, we modern yogis love to buy yoga gear and we’ll take all the help we can get. Why struggle when you can be supported. Am I right? Personally, I keep a couple of yoga blocks under my desk to place my feet on and help bring my knees into alignment with my hips. I have found over the years that using a yoga block or two will help students feel more comfortable with trying new poses and they have also helped me to go deeper into my own practice at times. Occasionally, it is nice to make the practice of yoga more restorative or supported and a yoga block can offer great assistance. Easily available, lightweight and affordable, a yoga block can be a great tool for any practice. The following photos demonstrate some of my favorite things to do with a yoga block or two..
1. Standing Posture Improver - In my new book The Yoga of Cleaning: An Essential Guide, I talk about spiritualizing your cleaning routine and creating sacred space in the context of yoga and its sister philosophies - Ayurveda and Vastu. What better way to connect your yoga practice with mundane household chores than working on your posture while washing dishes, folding laundry or dusting. Try using a yoga block in Tadasana or Standing Mountain Pose.
Instructions: Place a yoga block between your legs and grip it with your thighs. This action will tilt the pelvis down and lengthen and realign the spine.
2. Seated Posture Improver - Many of us spend our days sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer. Sitting is our generations smoking – it’s generally not good for your health and we do too much of it. If you must sit for several hours a day, try bringing awareness to your seated posture. How is your alignment? Are you knees in line with your hips? Is your spine straight or leaning forward? When we lean forward we put added pressure on the spine. If you can’t get your chair to the right height, perhaps you need a little assistance with a seated chair pose assisted by blocks.
Instructions: Take off your shoes if possible and place each foot on a yoga block with knees bent, sitting back in your chair with your spine straight.
3. Wide Angle Supporter - At the end of a long day Prasarita Padottanasana feels like heaven. It offers a full body stretch - especially the hamstrings, neck, lower back and thoracic spine and is calming to the mind. Adding in a yoga block makes it more restorative and allows you to stay in the pose longer.
Instructions: Stand with feet wider than hips (as wide as comfortable), bend at the waist and place the yoga block underneath the forehead. Extend the arms on either side of the block and place the palms on the floor. Stay in the pose for ten breaths or as long as you like.
4. Hip Opener - In my experience of teaching, many men have very tight hips and can use the aid of blocks to assist them with Baddha Konasana. Adding yoga blocks to this pose can make the difference between impossible and enjoyable.
Instructions: Sit on the floor with knees bent and bring the soles of the feet together. Place one yoga block under each knee for support. Breathe into the pose and sit up straight. Stay in the pose for as long as comfortable.
5. Forward Folder -Tight hamstrings or trouble with Paschimottanasana anyone? Try using a block to leverage a better forward fold with less rounding in the back.
Instructions: Sit on the block with legs extended and feet flexed. Inhale with straight spine and hands to sky. Exhale and bend forward grabbing the feet, ankles or legs. Stay in the pose for several breaths.
6. Bridge and Shoulder Stand Builder - Setu Bandhasana and Sarvangasana are such necessary antidotes to our shoulder rounding, technology addled lives but many people struggle with these poses. Let your yoga block give you the perfect assist.
Instructions: Start with bridge pose and then place the block under your sacrum at the desired height. Stay here for a few breaths or as long as you like. Then, extend the legs upward in a variation of shoulder stand.
7. Crash Protector - Bakasana is a great arm strengthener and real fun to learn, teach and practice. However, the fear of falling flat on your face is a little daunting to some. Try adding a yoga block to help you overcome any fear of falling and give you a little added support.
Instructions: Place a block under your forehead when practicing Bakasana or Crow Pose. Rest your forehead on the block for added support and balance.
8. Head Stand Facilitator - A regular inversion practice is extremely beneficial to the mind and body. Many yogis claim that daily inversion practice is the secret to eternal youth. Shirshasana can be made a little more “neck friendly” and accessible with a wall and the addition of blocks.
Instructions: You will need 6 blocks for this pose. Stack three blocks on either side of a ten inch gap, about an inch away from the wall. Come into head stand with your shoulders resting on top of the blocks and your head in between. You head should not touch the floor and you should feel no direct pressure on your neck.
9. Chest Opener - The perfect pose to end the day or any practice. I personally spend five minutes a day lying over a yoga block to open my chest and stretch the front of my neck muscles. As the body’s natural tendency is to curve forward, there needs to be a balance of back bends incorporated into daily practice.
Instructions: Place one block across the mid to upper back and one under the head and recline with arms extended against the floor. Or you can lie over one block in a flatter position than pictured and rest the back of the head on the floor – getting a greater stretch on the front of the neck.
10. Spine Straightener - Many people have a difficult time sitting on the floor comfortably for several reasons. Try sitting on a yoga block instead.
Instructions: Sit on yoga block cross legged or with legs straight. This elevated position will help keep the spine straight.