Yoga is one of those unique forms of exercise where there are very few pieces of equipment that are needed. There are a few key items needed for a deep stretch and they are outlined here. Probably the most important item to have is a solid pair of Yoga blocks. Although it is possible to go without blocks our recommendation is to have two yoga blocks for the optimal practice and here’s why….
- Having two blocks opens up a range of assisted movements that will deepen and lengthen your stretches as well as allow you to hold a lot of poses for a longer period of time which will help to strengthen the muscles needed to maintain a pose
- Generally, Yoga blocks are sold in a set of two and while you can get away with just using one block it definitely will limit the poses and resting poses available to you
- Poses can be done with one block, but in a lot of cases, it may require you to overexert or place too much focus on one side of your body
Benefits of using yoga blocks?
At their core, they assist in aligning and deepening your poses and there are a number of poses that are assisted from leveraging blocks.
- Blocks aid with a diverse range of motion, this will result in reducing the distance between yourself and the floor. As you progress you will be able to change the height of the blocks to get even closer to the floor. They also help with stability in your poses and are great for making sure that you are not straining your muscles trying to reach the floor
- They are great for all levels of Yogis. Whether you’re a beginner or have been practicing for years, blocks are essential for any session.
- Blocks assist you in getting your body closer to the floor – This will as a result help you to maintain your posture for longer periods which will strengthen and improve your poses.
- Improve your form and reduce the risk of injury – Probably the most important aspect of yoga is maintaining the correct form. If you’re trying out a new posture that works for a specific muscle group there is a good chance you will need to strengthen this muscle group to be able to hold the pose. The blocks will help in this strengthening of the muscle.
- Getting Deep – Yoga is a great form of exercise as it increases your flexibility and lengthens your muscles. By leveraging blocks in your practice, it will help you to deepen your stretch. There is a wide range of poses that are aided by blocks and we have outlined a number of them below.
Common Misconception with Yoga Blocks
We’ve heard it all, from using Yoga blocks makes your practice easier to your Yoga instructor handing your blocks is a sign that you are terrible at Yoga. These are not the case. Blocks are used to lift and align your poses. By leveraging your blocks you can open up and expand the reach of the poses that you are doing that result in a deeper more fulfilling stretch.
The biggest misconception is probably that the use of yoga blocks in practice is only for beginner yogis and this is not the case. Although it is true that as you progress to become an advanced yogi you probably won’t use the blocks as frequently as a beginner or intermediate Yogis. No matter what level you are at some days you will need blocks. The flexibility of the body is dependent on a lot of variables such as whether it’s the morning or the afternoon, what you ate or the day before, and what type of exercise you did leading up to your practice. So, your investment in blocks won’t go to waste as you progress.
Poses to use Yoga blocks
Using blocks for chaturanga is a great way of getting perfect shoulder alignment and back position in your pose. The main areas of the body that are at risk of injury when practicing chaturanga are the shoulders and the back.
- Simply place the blocks at their highest height, and they should be shoulder-distance apart at the top of your yoga mat.
- Position your hands about an inch behind the blocks. Come into a plank position and lower down chaturanga until your shoulders tap the top of the blocks.
- The goal of this exercise is to make sure that your shoulders don’t drop forward as this can cause injury.
Side Angle Pose
One of the foundations poses of yoga. Side angle pose is a great way to build leg strength and to ground and connect you to the earth. Using blocks in this pose is more suited for beginner to intermediate Yogis. Using a block here will help intensify the side angle pose to get a deep stretch in your thighs and lats.
- Place one foot to the front of the mat and the back foot towards the back with your foot pointing to the long side of the mat.
- Bend your right knee to 90 degrees with your back leg straight. Place the block beside your front foot at a height that is suitable for your body.
- Reach the hand on which is on the same side as your leading foot down to the block. Extend the back leg once your hand is down, twist your chest to face the mat.
- Once you have twisted to a suitable amount your other arm up and over your head to point towards the top of the mat.
- Make sure you don’t sink too much into the shoulder of your leading foot.
Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
This can be a tricky pose for beginners who may not have the flexibility to reach with the extension of the standing and back leg. So blocks are integral here. This pose is great for building strong legs and core.
- Elongate your legs apart to a comfortable distance
Which height should I be using?
There are three different heights that you can use with a Yoga block. The first height is the lowest level which is when you lie the block flat on the area with the largest surface. The second height is the medium height and is when you place the long narrow side on the floor. Finally, the highest height is when you put the block on the shortest and narrowest side.
Which material Yoga block should I choose
They come in a myriad of materials from Bamboo, wood to cork or foam. The block you choose will be dependent on the type of poses you will be doing. Originally yoga blocks were made of wood and this material is definitely the most durable of the bunch. When you’re buying a block you should be thinking about three main things. These are durability, sturdy support from the block, and finally that the block is made of eco-friendly materials.
Wood Yoga Blocks
The traditional block will literally last you a lifetime. If you have a strong eco-eye then these are the blocks for you. There are a number of companies out there using sustainable materials and practices in their manufacturing process and the fact that these blocks will last so long is a win for the environment and sustainability.
Great for standing poses, the one downfall of these blocks is related to comfortability. So, if you’re doing a lot of backbends and resting on the blocks these may not be your best choice. Another thing to note on wooden blocks is that they can get quite slippery if you’re doing hot yoga or sweating in general.
Given that, they will cost more than other materials, you will need to weigh up the pro’s and con’s, but if these align with your wants in a Yoga block don’t let the price deter you as they will literally last a lifetime.
Cork Yoga Blocks
Being made of a natural material these blocks are another great eco-friendly option. One of the major benefits of cork blocks compared to wooden blocks is that they are lightweight and also are a lot cheaper. You don’t really lose out on too much durability with these blocks either. They are still good for most poses and are a little more comfortable than wooden blocks when it comes to backbends and resting poses.
Probably the biggest negative with cork blocks is that the material isn’t waterproof. It is water-resistant and is the reason why wine bottles traditionally use cork but so if you’re sweating or spill anything on it the material could absorb a small amount of moisture. This will result in it being a little difficult to clean.
Foam Yoga Blocks
They are probably the most all-around blocks from a practice standpoint. They’re very durable, easy to clean, lightweight, and very cheap. Perfect for every type of pose, they’re sturdy for your standing poses and soft and buoyant to the touch for resting poses.
If you’re doing hot yoga these are the blocks for you. As they are extremely easy to clean and are non-slip. If you’re looking for the most affordable option these should definitely be your choice.
A few things to keep in mind about foam blocks is that if you’re an eco-conscious person these are not the best for the environment so go for the wood or cork variants if this is important to you. Also, from a durability standpoint, these will last the shortest. Depending on the quality of blocks you get they can become dented and scratched, but if you take good care of them this shouldn’t be an issue.