Beginner Yoga Series: How to Use Yoga Blocks
One of the things I love most about going to a yoga studios is the ability to use all of the different yoga props. Yoga props were designed to assist students in achieving different variations of yoga postures. For beginners, tools like blocks and straps can help students enjoy yoga poses with light assistance. Additionally, the same props can be used to help seasoned students kind ways to strengthen their practice. Today, we are diving into the different ways to use Yoga Blocks in your practice.
Yoga blocks come in all shapes and sizes, fitting a variety of budgets and preferences. For example, the skinnier foam block that I use in a variety of the poses below was purchased at Walmart for $3. You can also get a set of blocks on Amazon for only $10 (thicker than the ones from Walmart). Sturdier yoga blocks made of cork or wood material may cost closer to $20-30. I would not get too caught up in having the fanciest blocks out there. In fact, I prefer the foam blocks because I find them to be more comfortable in a supportive or resting yoga pose.
You can also enjoy yoga blocks in a variety of shapes nowadays, including egg or triangle shapes blocks. Depending on the design, these might assist wrist pain or help students build more balance. They're all made for unique reasons and everyone has their own preferences.
As a beginner, I'd just stick to some easy foam blocks that will help you to find more ease in your postures.
How to Use Yoga Blocks
There are probably hundreds of ways yoga blocks can be used, with a variety of options in nearly every yoga posture. This post is designed to give you an idea of how you can use them at home, but we truly encourage you to get creative with your practice. Play around with the use of these props in the poses you struggle with and see how it goes.
Add Extra Length for Alignment
In postures that require the hands to be on the floor, a yoga block can offer extra length for students who do not yet have the flexibility to find the proper alignment. You can use a block to extend your reach or even challenge yourself to hold a posture longer with the added support.
In triangle pose, many students drop their chest towards the floor when attempting to bring their front hand to the ground. By bringing the hand to a block instead, students are able to lengthen their reach and find better alignment. This can help take pressure off the leg because students can sometimes press a lot of weight into their leg trying to find balance when the hand is brought to the thigh or shin.
Low Lunge: Place blocks under the hands to increase the amount of space you have to lift your chest open, rather than rounding down over the knee.
Add Extra Length for Balance
Similar to the poses shown above, blocks can be placed under the hands to support the body in balancing poses. Using a block can create a "short cut" the the floor, which is especially useful in postures such a Half Moon Pose, which require the front hand to be all the way to the floor while maintaining a straight leg. By placing the block on the tallest side, it can support the weight of the upper body and extend reach.
In standing forward fold, blocks can be positioned under the hands to shorten the space required to reach stability. This can help students avoid the fear of falling forward in a folded position, such as standing wide-legged forward fold.
Extra Support for the Body
One of my favorite ways to use yoga blocks is to aid in supporting the weight of the body to make poses more comfortable. This is especially the case for students struggling with tight hips. While sitting in easy pose (cross-legged) on the floor, students with tight hips tend to have their knees high and find the posture rather uncomfortable. By placing a block underneath the tailbone, this gives extra space for the hips open up and the knees to lower.
In pigeon pose, tight hips can cause a large gap between the sits bones and the floor beneath them. The fear here is that a student may accidentally drop too deep into this posture before their body has the flexibility to do so. By placing a block under the bum, the body is prevented from sinking deeper into the pose and the pressure can be released.
Additionally, blocks can be used in postures such as bridge pose to turn an active pose into a resting pose. By placing a block under the lower back, you can rest into the posture, enjoying the shoulder and neck stretch without putting energy into the legs. (See video below for example.)
Build Extra Strength
Yoga blocks can often be used as a reminder to squeeze into the muscles. For example, in poses where we tend to splay our legs open instead of squeezing the thighs towards each other, such as chair pose or bridge poses, we can plant the block between our thighs as a reminder to squeeze. This can be useful in basic postures, such as downward facing dog, to work on strengthening into the legs.
Additionally, students can get a bit more creative with ways to use blocks for strength building. One of my tricks for building arm and ab strength is to place the blocks underneath both hands in staff pose. Use the extra length under the hands to lift the tailbone off the ground. To increase intensity in the abs, try lifting one foot off the ground. As you continue to build strength, it may be possible to lift both feet off the ground.
Deepen your Stretch
One of my absolute favorite ways to rest is in child's pose with the assistance of blocks. As a person who works at the computer all day, the tightness in my shoulders is a real struggle. In child's pose, placing blocks underneath the hands or elbows can create an extra stretch in the shoulders (similar to downward dog on the wall). This allows the head to drop through and the shoulders to pull back. (See the video below.)
For a video demonstration of these moves, check out this quick video on using yoga blocks:
Additionally, yoga blocks may be a great way to assist in avoiding wrist pain in some poses. Check out this article on avoiding wrist pain in yoga for more details.
Beginner students, do not shy away from yoga blocks out of embarrassment or because you aren't sure how to use them. Students of all levels continue to use props, such as blocks to improve their practice and enjoy a variety of supported poses. Enjoy being creative and finding ways they work best for you.
Next week, we will be diving into yoga straps, so be sure to stay tuned to learn more about beginner props. Subscribe to my email newsletter to make sure you don't miss anything and enjoy some special insights from me that I do not share on the blog.
Questions about how to use yoga blocks? Comment below and let's keep the conversation going!
Keep your head up, yogis! You're doing great 🙂