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If you’re a beginner to yoga, or have been practicing for a bit but just can’t seem to improve your flexibility or strength, you are probably under utilizing a very important tool: yoga blocks.
Yoga blocks have been used for decades, and were specifically created to aid yogis of all levels in their practice.
But the thing is, when you go to a studio or take a class, they don’t really give you the 101 on how to use blocks to help you. There are a lot of different ways you may have not even thought about that you can use them for.
Why should you use yoga blocks?
Yoga blocks are a really savvy tool to use to help you substantially improve your yoga practice and physical well being. Here are a few things they help you with:
- Build upper body strength
- Practice correct alignment
- Protect and build strength in weak wrists
- Get deeper into poses
I promise after you read this article, you’re going to immediately want to go get yourself a pair of your own blocks! But FIRST, make sure you get the right ones.
Which yoga blocks are best for you?
There are a few different types of yoga blocks, and you’re going to want to pick the one that best suits your practice and your goals. They go based on material and thickness.
Different block materials:
These are softer and lighter than the other two types we’re going to go over. These are best for beginners as they may be more comfortable to use in supportive postures.
Some people feel that foam blocks don’t provide enough grip, or are too light for their liking. Cork is the next best option for beginners as they are softer than wood blocks and are heavier. They are also eco friendly and usually last longer than foam blocks.
Yoga blocks were originally in wooden form. Today, they are usually made from bamboo. These are much harder than foam blocks, so I would not say these are best for beginners that are going to use them in restorative poses. The upside is they practically last forever and are very sturdy, but of course that means they are more expensive. They also tend to lose their grip when you get sweaty, so keep that in mind.
Different block sizes:
There are generally three different sizes that are used:
9″ x 6″ x 4: Wider than traditional blocks
9″ x 6″ x 3: The average yoga block size
9″ x 6″ x 2: Thinner than average yoga blocks
If you have smaller hands, you might not want to get the thickest blocks as they will be hard for you to grip. The thin yoga blocks can be useful as you are building up your flexibility and do not need as much support anymore.
I suggest starting out with the traditional size of 9″ x 6″ x 3, this is usually a good starting point for everyone. You can then turn the blocks in different ways to make them shorter or taller.
The different ways to use yoga blocks
Yoga blocks can be used in a variety of ways, but in the end, to benefit you, it really boils down to three main things:
This refers to correcting your alignment and deepening the stretch that you are in.
When you are in a pose that you feel you are struggling to stay in, you need to be using blocks.
When you do this, you are most likely not in good alignment and therefore not obtaining the full benefit of the pose.
Using yoga blocks will help prevent you from over straining yourself, improve your alignment, and get deeper into your poses to become more flexible.
Pretty much anytime you hands are unable to touch the ground in a pose, it would be beneficial for you to use yoga blocks.
Yes, there are alternatives such as resting your hands on your shins or ankle instead, but blocks provide much more stability and comfort than doing that, which in turn helps you get deeper into the pose and improve your flexibility.
Here are a few different ways you can use yoga blocks in different poses to get better alignment and therefore get a deeper stretch.
The next time you do Triangle Pose, if you can’t reach the floor, instead of grabbing onto your ankle or shin, use a block.
The reason you can’t reach the ground is because you have tight hamstrings. Triangle pose is a great pose to improve your alignment, but this becomes very challenging when you are uncomfortable.
You are supposed to be completely linear in Triangle, as if you can fit between two walls. When your hand is struggling to stay on the ground or your shin, most of the time you body naturally hunches over, in which you are breaking proper alignment.
When you use a block in Triangle, you are giving yourself more stability so you can focus on lifting through your chest, lengthening through your finger tips, and folding over your front leg.
2.Standing Forward Fold
You are unable to reach your fingertips to the ground for the same reason you can’t reach them to the ground in Triangle: tight hamstrings.
When you have tight hamstrings in Standing Forward Fold and are struggling to touch your hands to the ground, often your back naturally curls and you are missing out the benefits of the pose.
Standing Forward Fold is a great way to stretch your back and improve flexibility in your hamstrings, but in order to do this, you need to have a straight back. Remember, adjust the height so you are getting a good stretch but maintaining proper alignment- you don’t want it to be too easy.
Camel is a great chest opener, but can be really uncomfortable if you have back pain or tight shoulders. Try using block right next to your heels to create a milder backbend in which you are still getting a great stretch. Try gradually decreasing the height of the blocks as time goes on.
Yoga blocks are a great tool to use to build strength throughout your entire body. A lot of yoga poses are great for improving strength, but you may not be reaping the benefits because you are unable to maintain proper alignment, form, or have not built up enough strength to get into the pose.
Blocks are a great way to force your body into perfect alignment and push yourself to use the correct muscles to stay in the pose.
Here are a few yoga poses with blocks that are perfect for building strength:
Boat Pose is one of the best exercises to do to gain true core strength. The problem is, many people lack the flexibility or strength to stay in proper alignment. This decreases the effectiveness of the pose.
In order to really build core strength from boat pose, you need to be completely engaging your legs and core.
A great way to do this is place a block between your legs. If your hamstrings are too tight to stay straight, that’s okay- this is just as effective with Half Boat.
Squeeze the yoga block between your legs throughout the entire pose. Doing this will activate your core and force you stay in perfect alignment!
Chaturanga is a great pose to build upper body and core strength, but the problem is, you NEED upper body and core strength to do this pose in the first place. Otherwise you will pretty much collapse to the ground.
This was a really hard pose for me to do when I first started. It felt impossible to keep my elbows in and maintain proper form without completely collapsing.
In Chaturanga, you are basically doing a push up with your elbows tucked into your sides. You need to maintain a straight back and engage your core just like you would in a regular push up. But for people who have no upper body strength, they tend to focus all of their attention of the arms, then don’t engage their core, and it pretty much goes downhill from there.
When you place two blocks under your shoulders, you are providing them support and aiding your body into proper alignment. You can then focus on engaging your core and building up your upper body and core strength.
Remember, just because the blocks are under your shoulders, does NOT mean you should be resting on them. They are merely there for support until you can build up enough strength to go without them.
If you’re finding it hard to take your poses off of the ground, this simple arm balance is a great place to start. You may not be able to get unsupported arm balance because you lack upper body strength, core strength or have tight hamstrings. You need all of these components to be able to successfully do this pose, and doing it supported is a great way to help you improve these three things.
Using a block under your heels give you just enough support to keep your lower body off the ground while still forcing you to engage your shoulders, core, hips, and hamstrings to keep the rest of your body up in the air.
A lot of yoga poses that are classified as restorative can actually be pretty strenuous and ineffective if you lack flexibility. There are several ways you can use blocks in each pose to give you the support you need to deepen into the pose and and unleash the tightness.
The most common complaint for people in this pose is that their ankles start to hurt, or the fronts of their thighs cannot tolerate the stretch.
Hero’s Pose is great for stretching your hips and quadriceps, Use a block underneath your seat to provide comfort for your ankles and make the stretch milder so you can stay in it longer.
Plow Pose is a very relaxing pose that is used at the end of many sequences to wind down. It is great for stretching your lower back and hamstrings, but if you lack flexibility in your hamstrings, you may end up bending your legs while trying to reach the ground.This makes the stretch less effective.
Try placing a block right where your feet are suppose to touch the ground to give them more support. This way, you will not overstretch yourself and are providing your feet support.
This will allow you to focus on engaging your legs and pushing through your heels to get the most out of the pose.
3.Seated Forward Fold
Seated Forward Fold is another pose that is pose relaxing a great for improving flexibility, but many times people to do not practice correct alignment here, making them lose the effectiveness of the pose.
When you fold, your back needs to be straight, not hunched. This is hard to do when you are pushing yourself to fold over when you aren’t flexible.
By placing a block for your head to rest on, you are not constantly straining to have a straight back while trying not to hurt yourself. Make sure you find a comfortable height that you can tolerate before you fold all the way. Now, you can focus on engaging your leg, keeping a straight back, flexing your feet, and folding deeper.
I hope this article was helpful for you guys! If you’d like to learn about more poses that can help improve your flexibility, we have a FREE Resource Library full of Yoga Routine Printables you can do anytime.
We are constantly adding to the library, and always email our readers when we’ve added new stuff for them!
The library is password protected, but you can get the password by signing up here.
Here are a few other resources you may find helpful for improving your flexibility and getting the most out of your practice:
Ally is the co-founder of GroundedPanda.com with her fiance Victor. She began practicing yoga at the beginning of her career as a Registered Nurse to cope with the physical and mental stress it put on her, and fell in love with it. Her goal is to help beginners develop a fulfilling practice without the intimidation. Besides managing this website, she loves hiking with her loving fiance and cuddling with her two silly cats.