This week marks the release of Read more →
The use of props in yoga is with the intention of finding a place of ideal comfort and proper alignment in each of the postures. For individuals new to yoga as well as those with a limited range of motion, tight muscles or stiff joints, the use of a block to accompany your practice can help to align the body and also allows for modifications for your comfort. Some styles of Hatha yoga rely more on the use of props, including Iyengar, Restorative and Yin yoga, all of which include the use of block during class. Other styles of yoga will not include the use of props at all, these are styles that move quickly making the use of a block unpractical or styles that rely solely on the body’s strength for support. Blocks are available in a variety of sizes, styles, shapes, materials and colors. Depending on the material, the weight of blocks varies from super light foam, to much heavier wood. Foam blocks can be easily transported and comfortably held and moved during your session, while the heavier blocks, though not as travel friendly, have a bit more staying power on your mat and are less likely to tip or slide.
The following video offers some suggestions on how you can use the block:
Yoga Props – Blocks
Ashley explains the various uses for blocks in yoga practice. Whether you’re experienced or a yoga beginner, props can be a valuable tool in your yoga practice.
There are three basic functions of the block:
- To offer support- The block is placed under the body; knees, sit bones, feet, back, etc. This allows the support muscles to relax so you can move deeper into the stretch.
- To provide something to reach to- This offers support but the intention is a bit different, bringing the “floor” closer to rest the hand, elbows, head, heels, etc. on top of the block.
- To enhance your practice or deepen the stretch- When the block is used in this way, it can be less conventional, but just as helpful! Options include placing the hands on top of blocks for more lift in an arm balance, or reaching around a block past the feet to deepen your stretch.
Unfortunately, for some reason or another there tends to be a perceived stigma with the use a block during some classes. Perhaps blocks are viewed it as a “crutch” or as something just for beginners and the inflexible. If this thought has crossed your mind before, I would like to take a moment to remind you that this is yoga and your practice is for the benefit of NO ONE else in the room except for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a safe and comfortable yoga position, especially since both your body and your yoga teacher will appreciate you being aligned and safe during your practice. I have been stunned by the reactions from some students when I bring them a block. Usually, if I notice that someone is out of alignment or if they look uncomfortable I will bring them a block and position it on their mat to use or model how to use it. Most of the time I will get a smile or a nod, maybe even a thank you, but on occasion I will encounter a very negative response to the offer of a block. I have had students loudly refuse the block, telling me they don’t need it or pushing, even throwing it off of their mat. Other times the reaction is more passive-aggressive, such as students completely ignoring my suggestions, glaring or rolling their eyes at me, as if the block is embarrassing or that they need to prove something to someone (maybe themselves) by not using the block.
Please remember that if a teacher brings you a block during class it is NOT because you are doing something wrong and it is not because the teacher considers you a beginner or thinks you to be inflexible, there is no judgement. In my opinion, being open to using a block is actually showing flexibility. It also says that you care for your body and that you are open to learning and growing your practice. Additionally, I come from a place where I like to think that there is no “wrong” in yoga. There is unsafe, there is uncomfortable and there is misaligned, but not wrong! We are all unique spirits with unique bodies and what is very “right” for one person, may seem “wrong” to another. Yoga is not a black and white kind of practice. It is an every color of the rainbow and many shades of gray kind of practice. This is illustrated in all of the different styles of yoga that are practiced today.
Many teachers, myself included, use blocks in their personal practices. Of course how I have used them has changed over the years, but they offer an invaluable benefit in my practice as I am able to challenge myself and allow for complete relaxation. With the blocks I am able to safely get into postures that I may not be able to do otherwise. I may use a block for the first few breath of a position, then I might turn it to a lower side to go a bit deeper and then if its comfortable I might move it away or I might not. This lets me slowly move deeper, offering support as long as I need it. So the next time your instructor suggests grabbing a block before class or offers you one during class, try it out with an open mind and an open heart as you may learn to love what the block can bring to your practice.
We love your feedback and welcome any comments, questions or suggestions that you may have, please leave them below!
Ashley Freeman is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Certified in Raja Yoga, her experience includes private in-home lessons, workplace wellness programs, and group instruction teaching various class formats and yoga styles. Find her on Google+