How to Use Yoga Blocks & Instantly Boost Your Practice
If you’re just starting in yoga, you may be wondering how to use yoga blocks. It seems clear that they’re a prop you can put your hands on when the floors a little too far away but, how else do you use them?
If this sounds like you and you have questions about using yoga blocks, keep reading because we’ll show you the basics of bringing this handy prop into your practice, why you need to use them and 5 poses you should be using them for right now.
Which Yoga Blocks to Use
There’s a variety of yoga blocks you can buy and they all have their own special claim. But the reality is you don’t need anything special. Yoga blocks come in the standard 9 x 6 x 4 inch size and as long as the material can support your weight, you’re good to go.
The most common materials for yoga blocks are foam and cork. The foam versions are the cheapest by far. However, they don’t last as long, stain easily, and they’re not as good for the environment.
Cork yoga blocks are usually more money but cork naturally kills bacteria and it's good for the environment. No matter what material you choose though, they all get the job done for the most part.
One thing I do want to say here is that if you’re especially new and not very flexible, you might want to get a yoga wheel AND a set of blocks. The yoga wheel is taller and helps you with things like backbends in addition to normal asanas. The wheel is a good starter (extremely useful) and you can work into the blocks in as you gain more flexibility.
The Best Yoga Block Sets:
Fledo yoga Blocks
Fledo Yoga Blocks are simple Eva foam which is dense and more than capable of supporting your weight. They're also lightweight and offered in a number of great colors.
Manduka Cork Yoga Blocks With Strap
If I'm being honest, this is my favorite set of blocks. Cork is naturally antimicrobial, better for the environment and this set includes a yoga strap (which you'll probably use often).
Benefits of Yoga Blocks
When I first started yoga, I thought using props was a sign of weakness. I was foolish. Once I began using them it made a world of difference in my practice. I wasn’t overstretching to hit poses anymore, I reduced the likelihood of injury, and I enjoyed practicing more because I felt successful. Here’s a few other big benefits of yoga blocks:
You Can Go Deeper
Using a yoga block can help you go deeper in your asanas. I know this is a paradox - but hear me out. When you pull your body to stretch beyond your flexibility you’re recruiting other muscles, not getting a full stretch on the proper muscles and risking injury.
By employing blocks you can achieve deep stretches of the right muscles
By employing blocks you can achieve deep stretches of the correct muscles while your body is supported. You won’t have to go beyond your comfort or bring in other muscles that aren’t supposed to be working. Additionally, by bringing the ground closer, you open up and stretch smaller stabilizer muscles.
Blocks Have Different Heights
Yoga blocks are typically 9 x 6 x 4 inches in size. That’s great because when you need the extra support you can turn the block on it's tall side and raise the ground 9 inches closer to you. As you progress more in your practice and personal flexibility you can turn the block on it's shorter side and then eventually lay it flat before finally extending all the way to the floor.
The benefit here is that for the price of one yoga block, you get the benefits of 3 sizes to walk you through your progressions.
You Can Reduce the Risk of Injury and Improve Your Form
I touched on this before but yoga blocks and props allow you to support yourself in challenging poses that could otherwise injure you. For example, a yoga wheel is often used to support your spines natural curvature while practicing backbends. Without the wheel, you could compromise your spinal health and put yourself in a position where you might get stuck on the floor.
Yoga blocks meet this same need by supporting you in many poses that might otherwise require you to sacrifice form.
In fact, Iyengar yoga, sometimes called “furniture yoga”, is one of the strictest forms of yoga. Instructors use an abundance of props with their students and often this is the recommended form of yoga for anyone with injuries and those who need help building stabilizer muscles and flexibility. If they're using props in Iyengar, chances are you should be too.
How to Use Yoga Blocks (And 5 Positions You Can Do Today)
The key to properly using yoga blocks is to avoid putting the bulk of your weight on the block. Instead, you want the majority of your weight to be stretching the muscles you're trying to elongate and then using the block to prevent straining.
To ensure you’re not depending on the block too heavily, try keeping your fingers spread and creating a suction cup with your hand. This recruits your hand and arm muscles while building length in the muscles being stretched.
Below I’ve included some of the best positions for yoga blocks but keep in mind that this is not a complete list. My recommendation is that you keep them by your side during your asanas and use them whenever you need a boost.
1. Forward Folds
The forward fold is one of the best poses for beginning yogis to start gaining comfort with their new yoga blocks. To perform forward fold:
Place a yoga block flat on the ground.
Sit on the yoga block and extend your legs shoulder width apart and straight out in front of your body.
Reach your arms into the air, exhale and lean forward trying to grab your toes. If you can't grab your toes, grab your shins or use a yoga strap to give yourself leverage.
Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths and release.
2. Pigeon Pose
The Pigeon Pose can be challenging for beginners (especially the lying Pigeon Pose). If you’re lacking flexibility in your hip or knees, the block is a saving grace in this move. Here’s how to use the block in the seated pigeon pose:
Kneel down on your mat with your knees shoulder width apart and arms at your sides.
Extend one leg straight back behind you while bringing your other leg forward and across your body. The majority of your weight will be on this front leg.
Position your yoga block (flat on the ground) underneath the sit bone of the leg that is crossing your body. This will help you maintain a slightly forward tilt and take pressure of your knees.
Stick your heart out and hold the pose for 5-10 breaths.
3. Bridge Pose
In bridge pose the yoga block will help you keep your thighs shoulder distance apart and keep your knees aligned. To perform bridge pose with a yoga block:
Lie down on your yoga mat (face up) with your arms at your sides and your legs shoulder width apart and relaxed.
Place your yoga block in between your thighs just above the knee.
Take a breath, gently squeeze the block between your thighs and lift up from the buttox and midsection.
Focus on keeping the block in place as you hold the pose for 5-10 breaths and then release.
4. Downward Dog
This is one of my favorite poses and while it looks too simple to be amazing, trust me that it’s one of the best poses to get right. To perform downward dog with yoga blocks:
Begin by getting on all fours on your yoga mat. Place the two yoga blocks shoulder width apart underneath your palms.
Ensure your fingers are spread and pointing towards the top of your yoga mat.
Draw your belly in and tighten your core. Press your hands into the blocks and lift up into an “A” frame.
Relax your head, take 5-10 breaths and release.
5. Upward Facing Dog
In upward facing dog you’ll position your yoga blocks in the same location as you did in downward dog. To perform this asana:
Get on all fours on your yoga mat with the blocks below your hands and your hands shoulder width apart.
Lean slightly forward and drop your hips towards the floor. Your hips probably won’t touch the floor but this is natural.
Pressing your hands into the blocks, push your upper body towards the ceiling to elongate your spine. You should have a strong arch in your back and feel a deep stretch in your hips.
Hold the pose for 5-10 seconds and relax.
Whether you’re an advanced yogi or just starting out, chances are that using yoga blocks can seriously help your practice. I practiced yoga for a little bit on and off before finally deciding to give the props a try. Since then, I’ve never quit and if you find yourself in a similar position, learning how to use yoga blocks might just be the thing that catapults your practice into new levels of quality.