Yoga blocks win the sleeper award. No matter how long you have been practicing, it is a wonderful tool. They provide extra height, stability, variation, and attention in every pose. A boxy friend to support you after a long day. So get intimate with your yoga block, and shake things up with these 7 ways to use a yoga block.
The First Yoga Block
Props were first introduced by B.K.S Iyengar aka father yoga. He brought in tools for his students, so poses would be more accessible. The yoga block was initially called a yoga brick because of the size that Iyengar preferred. He stated the optimal size should be 3 x 4.5 x 9 inches. Similar to a house brick. This is why yoga blocks are often referred to as yoga bricks.
However house bricks aren’t the best option for a peaceful session of yoga. For starters they are heavy. Imagine bringing a brick to class, or dropping it on your toe going into Half Moon Pose. Ouch! They can’t be sanitized very easily. Besides, all the grit and debris on your yoga mat, no thank you! Soon after, yogis devised their own blocks. They cut small wood planks, and wrapped phonebooks in foam.
Cork Yoga Blocks vs Everything Else
Thankfully yoga blocks have advanced. Now, they are designed to be flexible supports that maximize your alignment. They come in a variety of makes and models. The material used will determine weight, but most range from 3oz-2lbs. Here are the 3 most common types of yoga blocks:
- Cork Yoga Blocks – Our favorite obviously, but with good reason. Cork yoga blocks are firm, medium weight, and are naturally antibacterial. They have superior grip for butter hands. Depending on the brand, they are prone to peeling. Definitely a good choice for the eco conscious yogi because they are biodegradable.
- Foam Yoga Blocks – These blocks are lightweight, flexible, and easy to grip. They tend to degrade rather quickly and require cleaning after each use. The material cannot be easily recycled. Although more and more brands are creating their own foam recycling programs.
- Wood Yoga Blocks – Usually made from bamboo, pine, or birch these are the heaviest blocks. They do make some with hollow insides to reduce weight. In sweaty situations these blocks get slippery. Wood yoga blocks are also the most firm. They do offer one distinct feature, they are extremely durable, with some companies offering a lifetime guarantee.
Here are 7 ways to use a yoga block:
1. Measurement Tool
The standard block size is 4x6x9. Smaller yoga bricks at 3x6x9, like the Livity cork yoga block, are common too. The 4″ and 3″ sides come down to preference and comfort, when placing the block between the legs. The 6” and 9” sides are universally accepted for the average size practitioner. Why? These measurements approach the golden ratio. Simply put, they get our bodies to anatomically correct heights. The three side can be used as a ruler for correct spacing while doing yoga.
In Practice: Using the 9″ side between the forearms for sphinx pose or forearm stand, is a great way to maintain the proper distance between your arms. This will prevent them from falling in, which can result in injury. In mountain pose, squeeze each side of the 9″ rectangle when your arms are up. This is the proper distance, and firm hold you should have without the block.
2. A Spacer
Filling the void can be the difference between a good pose and the full expression. Calling attention to the area to rest or engage. In restorative yoga, the block reminds the body to relax. This allows you to naturally fall into a pose, rather than push.
In Practice: In bridge pose, squeeze the smallest length between your legs. This trains the inner thighs to engage and do the heavy lifting. Instead of relying on the gluteus muscles to hold the body up. You can also use the block as a spacer in low lunge. This will keep the upper back from hunching, and release weight from the wrists.
3. Wrist Support
Wrists take on a lot of the burden in yoga. Over time the load can cause discomfort and shooting pain during practice To alleviate this you want to make sure you maintain a neutral wrist. Not everybody has the same neutral wrist. You can find comfort by using a block to raise the floor. This will decrease the extension in your wrists, alleviating pain.
In Practice: Place blocks underneath your wrists in down dog. Raise the floor with blocks underneath your hands, in monkey pose.
4. Leg Lift
There are a couple advantages to wedging a yoga block under your foot. It will aid spinal alignment and ease the extension in your hamstrings. It can also work your balance in standing poses.
In Practice: Blocks under your feet in down dog, this will raise the hips and straighten the spine. A block under the standing leg in tree pose, for balance.
5. Yoga Block Weights
What better way to kick up your yoga class than to start lifting. A yoga block instantly transforms a regular yoga class into strength training. Anything over the head is sure to tone your arms and core. As well as test your balance. We love cork yoga blocks for this one. They are just the right weight to give you a boost.
In Practice: In side plank, with your top arm curl a yoga block into the space below your bottom armpit. Sit in chair pose holding a block in front of you. Then move into mountain pose and simultaneously lift the block above your head.
Back to the body and its response to sensation. Many forget using a block to aid trickier poses. A yoga block or a yoga brick can act like a teacher in a class. The slightest touch can be a reminder to make a necessary adjustment.
In Practice: In crow pose, have two blocks under your shoulders using the 9″ height. This will protect you from falling, and subtly nudge you to roll your shoulders back. In sitting forward fold, have a block behind the feet. This tells you to keep flexing your toes.
7. Hip Prop
Most flexibility issues stem from too much sitting. When your body is stuck in one position, the spine compresses and stiffens. Tilting the pelvic floor with a block is a natural, effortless stretch that can eliminate stress build up in the lower body.
In Practice: Try this in hero’s pose, butterfly, lotus, or any sitting pose. In the event that you have really tight hips, you can also do this off the mat. Yes, sitting on a block in the office is yoga!
Put a Cork Yoga Block in it
Yoga props are not like training wheels on a bike. They are useful in every stage of yoga. We go by the motto that each day is different. If you are not sure where to begin, get creative. Restorative yoga goes by the method of placing a block where the pain is. When in doubt, put a cork yoga block where you find any discomfort. Don’t worry about technicalities, just do what feels good.
Written and Modeled by Janáy J
Janáy J., also known as YayorNayyy in the world of social media, is a bottomless brunch junkie, black yogi, Rihanna lovin’, fearless, Twenty-something, Baltimore, Maryland native that simply enjoys living out loud. In 2013, Janáy proudly received her B.A. in Psychology from a small liberal arts college, St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Post graduation, Janáy’s plans were to move to NYC with hopes of obtaining a master’s degree in mental health counseling. In spite of her plans taking a last minute turn, she held on to faith and made the blinded move. Three years of living in the ‘city of dreams’ has offered her the best years of her life as she humbly says “Baltimore raised me, New York made me!”
Prior to returning to Baltimore, Janáy completed her 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher certification and has proudly become a black yogi. The DMV is on the up-rise and she believes now is the perfect time to come in and launch a business centered around self-care and mental health. Ultimately, she would like to open her own studio, but for now is holding classes out of rental spaces, yoga studios, and gyms, as well as, offering private and group classes upon request. Her best advice for those who are pursuing their dreams is to first believe in yourself. If you have no one else, along with people who don’t understand your vision/dreams as clearly as you, at the end of the day you have you. Motivate yourself, stay true to who you are, trust your journey and always move with confidence!