Make the Most out of Your Yoga Practice with the Use of Blocks
Whether you are a novice or a professional yoga practitioner, implementing modifications that suit your body is key. Not everybody can wrap a foot behind their head, or even touch their toes, so it’s important to make use of the props available in your yoga studio to maximize your practice and prevent overstretching and injury. Blocks in particular have so many uses in a yoga practice. Many students have a false perception that using a block is somehow a crutch that “lesser” yogis use. In reality, most bodies will benefit tremendously by using blocks. The three levels of height allow for countless ways to customize and support a person’s practice.
Perhaps the most obvious is to extend the length of the limb. For example, if in a Forward Fold, your fingers don’t comfortably connect to the floor, people might compensate by either rounding their back or taking a deep bend in their knees. Instead, slide one or two blocks underneath the fingertips to bring the ground up, allowing the spine and the hamstrings to stay long. A common misalignment I will see in poses like Triangle and Extended Side Angle is when a student struggles to connect their bottom hand to the floor. First of all, there is no prize for touching the floor. Placing a block on the inside or outside of the front ankle can bring the ground up so that the spine can stay long from tailbone through the crown, rather than dumping into their waist.
A block can be used under the sit bones (ischial tuberosity) in seated poses like Easy Sitting Pose (sukhasana) to create space for an anterior pelvic tilt, which allows the hip flexors to relax and the knees to melt below the hip line. Or, sliding a block in between the ankles while sitting in Diamond Pose (vajrasana) removes pressure from the ankle and knee joints.
One of my favorite ways to use two blocks (at the lowest height) is one under each hand, for Downward Facing Dog. This helps release pressure from the shoulder girdle, which allows me to focus on maximizing the length in my spine. Plus, the added length it creates in my arms means that stepping my foot forward for any sort of lunging pose (like Crescent or Warrior 2) means my foot has the space to arrive without me rolling to one side, compromising the shoulder joint.
While the uses for blocks listed above are some of my favorites, there are countless other ways to utilize them to get the most out of your practice. So next time you are in a yoga studio and a pose feels a bit uncomfortable, check in with your teacher to see if there might be a modification that works for you because yoga is for all shapes, sizes and abilities.