Wednesday, December 7
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How to Use Yoga Blocks

Yoga blocks on a yoga mat.
Photo by Samantha Sheppard on Unsplash

If you’ve been to your first yoga class, you may have noticed that people use some colorful blocks while performing certain poses, and now you’re at home wondering how to use a yoga block in your own yoga practice.

Many yoga students refrain from using yoga blocks because they can achieve a pose without them, and they see this kind of help as a sign of weakness.

Yoga blocks, however, are just tools, and even experienced yogis use them to improve their flexibility, strength, or sensations while performing different poses. Using blocks doesn’t mean that you are unable to perform a pose. It allows you to unlock new sensations and deepen the experience of a pose thanks to the support they provide.

What Are Yoga Blocks?

Yoga blocks are the most common props used for yoga practice. They help you bring the floor closer to your fingertips when you’re standing and support your back, neck, and other critical areas during sitting or reclining poses.

Types of Yoga Blocks

Yoga blocks come in different materials and sizes. Usually, they are made of foam, cork, or wood.

Foam Yoga Blocks

Foam blocks are the lightest type, which is good if you need to carry them somewhere. They are good for beginners practicing restorative asanas or for sensitive body parts like your knees, lower back, and head.

However, due to their lack of sturdiness, many students don’t find them good for poses that require them to lean their weight on the block.

Cork Yoga Blocks

Cork yoga blocks are somewhat sturdier than foam but softer than wood. Besides providing a stronger sense of stability, especially in standing poses, they are also longer-lasting and eco-friendly.

Wooden Yoga Blocks

Wooden blocks are the OG yoga blocks that you can rarely see today. They are very hard and not good for beginners because they become slippery when wet. Today, however, you can find bamboo yoga blocks if you feel like a very sturdy block would suit your needs.

How to Use Yoga Blocks

Female in lotus pose on a yoga mat
Photo by Carl Barcelo on Unsplash

Although most yoga studios have yoga blocks at their students’ disposal, they often don’t give detailed enough instructions on how to use them.

There are four main things that yoga blocks can be helpful with:

  1. Alignment improvement;
  2. Wrist strengthening;
  3. Upper body strengthening;
  4. Deepening the poses.

Where Do You Put Yoga Blocks?

Yoga blocks are most commonly used as arm extensions, back, head, and hip support.

You can place a yoga block beneath the head, chest, elbows, knees, and the lumbar part of the back, or use it to extend the arm when reaching the floor is not possible due to a lack of flexibility.

The exact position of the yoga block will mainly depend on the pose you want to achieve. Even when your flexibility level reaches a satisfying level and you become able to perform the desired asanas without support, you can still keep on using the blocks. Block can help to deepen the experience or widen poses (e.g. the heart opening in the Fish pose or the chest and back opening in the Camel, Puppy, or Bow pose, but more on this in the following section).

How to Use Yoga Blocks for Strengthening?

Yoga blockers are often helpful for strengthening as well. You can place them between your ankles while performing the Boat pose to strengthen your core, back, and thighs.

You can use it as you transition toward performing the Chaturanga. Chaturanga is quite difficult for most people, as it requires core and arm strength to perform in the first place. Placing a yoga block beneath the chest is the best way to support yourself as you gradually build strength to perform this pose.

How to Use Yoga Blocks to Increase Flexibility?

Man using yoga blocks on a yoga mat
Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Yoga blocks can be extremely helpful for increasing flexibility, especially for beginners, as they may find it difficult to achieve certain poses without the support of the blocks.

For example, in the forward folding and side bending poses, a yoga block is often used as arm extension to avoid tendon and muscle injury that may occur during bending (especially as a beginner). While holding the yoga block in your hand, you can slowly bend down to the floor and use the block to support yourself once you reach your limit. You can place the yoga block either on your feet or on the ground, horizontally or vertically.

You can use yoga blocks to improve your hip flexibility. One of the poses that challenge hip flexibility is the lizard pose. By placing the yoga block either beneath the back leg knee, beneath the hands, or elbows (depending on how far you are in achieving this pose).

To increase back and chest flexibility in the Fish pose, place the yoga block beneath your nape (occiput) to support your head and neck. The block will help dissolve the tension, and you can work on opening your chest by focusing on breathing.

In the Bow pose, the block should support your chest and help you fetch your calves more easily while your chest, shoulders, arms, and thighs are stretching.

How to Use Yoga Blocks for Your Back?

Yoga blocks can also help you release pain and increase the flexibility of your back muscles.

For example, in the Bridge pose, you can place the yoga block vertically beneath the sacral part of your back while lifting your knees up and keeping them parallel with the feet. As you breathe, try to relax through the gluteals. The block will help release the flexors in the hips and lower back while letting your spine stretch.

Another way to use a yoga block for back stretching is to place it under your hands while performing the Upward Facing Dog pose. The blocks will bring the floor higher and help you learn how to lift your knees off the mat. This, together with quadriceps contractions, will protect the lumbar part of the spine while your abdomen, chest, and shoulders are stretching.

A yoga block beneath the forehead in the Puppy pose. It brings the floor closer and helps you rest your neck and head while stretching both your upper and lower back. As you breathe, try to deepen the stretch by focusing on lowering your chest.

You can use a yoga block to support your elbows in the Puppy pose. This will open your chest and lengthen the back muscles. The variation of this pose is to place the blocks beneath your hands and extend the stretch to your upper back as well.

How Many Yoga Blocks Do I Need?

If you’re a beginner in yoga, we strongly recommend starting with two foam yoga blocks. These usually come in packages of two, so you’re good. If you decide to move towards sturdier options (cork or bamboo), you will also be able to purchase a single block. Many yoga poses require only one block, but there are also those that will require putting one block beneath each hand, leg, or knee.

How to Use Yoga Blocks for Beginners?

All of the previously described ways of using yoga blocks apply to beginners and advanced yoga practitioners alike. The difference is the goal of using them. Beginners usually struggle with performing the poses and so use the blocks to support themselves. More experienced yoga practitioners use the blocks to increase their flexibility, deepen their experience in the pose, and awaken new sensations.

Your first yoga sessions can be frustrating as you discover that you can’t perform many poses due to a lack of flexibility, but also explorative as you discover many muscles and sensations that you never knew existed.

To make this process as smooth as possible, and maintain a proper posture while performing the asanas, beginners should use yoga blocks even for the simpler poses such as Standing Forward Fold (as arm extension), Triangle, Camel, Downward Facing Dog, etc, until the stretching level becomes satisfactory.

Beginners can also profit from using yoga blocks during complex sequences. For example, hold the block between your thighs (lengthwise oriented) during the Sun Salutations. This will give you more stability via accessing the adductor muscles (those in charge of moving the limbs towards the body midline).

Do I Need Yoga Blocks?

If you’re a beginner, the answer is yes. You need yoga blocks. They significantly help reduce the probability of injury. Yoga blocks are an excellent tool that assists you in achieving progress with your poses by extending your limbs, providing stability, and supporting those body parts that are tense or need time to get stronger.

If you’re an experienced yoga practitioner, you may not need yoga blocks to perform poses, but you can still benefit from them. They can help you strengthen your core and unlock new sensations in the poses you otherwise perform well.

Conclusion

Yoga blocks are quite simple to use. Both experts and more experienced practitioners can benefit from yoga blocks in different ways. A yoga block can be helpful in almost any pose, sometimes to support your stretching efforts and sometimes to improve your strength. If you’re wondering whether you need a yoga block or not, we would always say that it’s better to have a pair than not.

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