Today’s yoga is very different from how it was practiced just a few decades ago. As modern yoga practitioners, you have so many tools to help you with your asana practice no matter what body shape or size you are or what physical condition you’re in. Useful tools like the humble yoga block are now indispensable for many practicing modern postural yoga. Yoga block uses for support and stability in various poses can help make asanas more attainable regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a more seasoned yoga practitioner.
Learn how the modern yoga block came to be and find out about how using it can help you progress your yoga asana practice.
History of the Yoga Block
The first yoga blocks were called bricks and were made of wood. They were first introduced into the western yoga scene around the 1970s, especially during the time when Iyengar Yoga was becoming more and more popular.
BKS Iyengar was known for encouraging the use of props to help support the body in different yoga asanas. In the early days of Iyengar Yoga, props were mostly made of makeshift materials.
The first wooden yoga bricks were heavy, difficult to transport, and uncomfortable to use. But Iyengar encouraged his followers to practice with them anyway because they’re designed to support the body and aid the yogi into deeper expressions of alignment.
Yoga Blocks are extremely helpful not only for beginners or those who have injuries and other physical limitations, but also for advanced yogis who want to deepen their practice or are working on a certain asana.
Today, yoga blocks are made of foam or cork, making them sturdy and light and allowing you to lay on them for longer periods of time.
Ways to Use Your Yoga Block to in Your Asana Practice
1. Bring the Ground Closer to You
Uttanasana / Forward Ford
Yoga blocks are a helpful prop to use when you have tight hamstrings and can’t reach the ground with your hands. When you’re in a forward fold with straight legs, place one or two blocks in front of you to create an elevated surface that you can rest your palms on.
Over time, when your hamstrings start to lengthen, gradually decrease the height of the blocks (lay them down horizontally instead of standing them up vertically, etc.) or remove them altogether.
Trikonasana / Triangle Pose
Instead of placing your hand on your shin or ankle in Trikonasana, place a yoga block on either side of your front leg. Placing your lower hand on the block will allow you to be in proper alignment rather than struggling to get into the triangle shape.
Ustrasana / Camel Pose
For many who practice yoga, Ustrasana is a deep backbend. With the help of yoga blocks, this asana will become more attainable to you. Begin by placing a block on the outer side of each of your ankles. By placing your hands on the blocks, you will be able to shift your weight onto your hands without having to arch your back as much as if your hands were touching your heels.
2. Help strengthen and stabilize asanas
Setu Bandhasana / Bridge
To bring stability to your backbend in Setu Bandhasana, place a yoga block between your thighs and squeeze them together as you push your hips up towards the sky. This will help you minimize the use of your quadriceps and outer thighs.
It’ll also help you feel whether you’re lifting with a neutral spine, which is what you want to achieve in Bridge Pose.
Navasana / Bridge
Strengthen your core by placing a block between your knees in Navasana. For even more of a challenge, place the block between your ankles instead.
For a more dynamic Boat Pose, try holding a block in your outstretched arms and raising it up and down in sync with your breath.
Chaturanga Dandasana / Four Limbed Staff Pose
Chaturanga is a challenging asana that’ll help you build more upper body strength. However, in order to practice this pose safely, you’ll need some degree of upper body stability to begin with.
To help keep your shoulders and chest at the correct level, place a block underneath your sternum or shoulders. This will help you concentrate on hugging your elbows inwards without your whole upper body collapsing.
3. For lift and elevation
Padmasana, or Lotus Pose, is a seated cross-legged pose that’s ideal for meditation. It will help you calm your mind and deepen your asanas and meditation practice. But it can also be a core strengthening asana when you use your arms to lift your seat off the ground.
For the lift, it’ll help if you place your hands on yoga blocks to extend the length of your arms. When practicing this variation, make sure your blocks are stable and your hands don’t slip off of them.
Bakasana / Crow Pose
Place your feet on a yoga block when preparing to lift up into Crow Pose. This will help you gradually get used to transferring your weight into your arms without lifting your feet off the floor.
This is especially useful if you still have a fear of falling onto your face while trying to get into this arm balance for the first time.
Salamba Sarvangasana / Supported Shoulderstand
To lessen the risk of injuring your cervical spine and your neck, use a block to practice a variation of this classic yoga asana.
Place the yoga block underneath your sacrum to give your back extra support as you elevate your legs. This will allow you to concentrate on keeping your legs straight instead of struggling to keep your hips over your shoulders.
4. Something to sit on
Virasana / Hero’s Pose
In Hero’s Pose, sit on a yoga block to ease the strain on your ankles and lessen the stretch in your thighs. This will help you stay in the pose longer and get into a meditative state as you gently increase your mobility.
Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasana / Pigeon Pose
While Pigeon Pose is great for opening up tight hips, it’s often difficult to maintain for longer than a second if you don’t have the necessary hip mobility to begin with.
Place a yoga block under the sitting bone of your front leg to support your seat and maintain proper alignment. This will help you stretch your hips even while they’re elevated.
Baddha Konasana / Butterfly Pose
Sit on a yoga block to make Bound Angle Pose or Butterfly Pose more comfortable if you have tight hips. Alternatively, you may also place yoga blocks underneath your knees to support them if they can’t open up comfortably yet.
5. Support for Restorative Yoga Poses
Tadasana / Mountain Pose
Maintain stillness while in Tadasana by placing a yoga block between your feet and isometrically squeezing them against each other. This activates a Pada Bandha, or Foot Lock, which helps to ground you and focus your awareness on your connection with the earth.
Balasana / Child’s Pose
Place a block underneath your chest or head while in Child’s Pose for extra support and to help keep your seat bones in contact with your heels. You may also place blocks under your hands to stretch your arms and back while in this resting pose.
With this Floating Savasana variation, blocks can help make your Final Resting Pose both a chest and heart opener.
Place one yoga block underneath your head and another one between your shoulder blades to support your upper back. This will slightly elevate your upper body, which will allow your shoulders to relax and your chest to expand.
Conclusion on Yoga Block Uses
Don’t be afraid to make a pair of yoga blocks your constant companion in your yoga asana practice. They will help you find new depths and expressions in your poses as well as support your body in more challenging asanas as you develop strength and flexibility.