One time I was speaking with a fellow instructor and the subject of blocks came up. She said, “I never realized how awesome blocks were until I got certified,” I was the same way. It seems as though people think blocks are for beginners or maybe they don’t realize how wonderful they are regardless, our blocks are neglected far too often. This is a tragedy in my opinion. Blocks can make your practice more relaxing and/or more challenging, plus you can use them in almost any pose. Knowledge is power; I’m breaking down five poses that make me want to reach for my blocks, grab yours and get to practice!
Shalabasana strengthens core muscles, inner thighs, and back muscles while opening the front of the heart. All of this is dependent on being in proper alignment in the pose, blocks can help you achieve those benefits and be in proper alignment. There are two wonderful ways to incorporate blocks into this pose, one for a restorative heart opening, the other for strengthening and alignment.
- While lying face down on your mat place a block under the crease where your arm and upper chest meet (just above your armpit) on both sides. Start with the block on a low height then add height as desired.
- Extend legs long and slightly press the tops of your feet into the mat.
- Lift head and reach crown of head away from your feet to create a slight elongation though your spine.
- Rest forehead onto the mat and relax into the pose.
- Stay here for up to 5 minutes.
- Have a block handy between your feet.
- Begin the pose lying face down on your mat.
- Slightly lift each leg and reach back to elongate the spine.
- Roll shoulders up and back creating space in the upper chest.
- Imagine a small berry rests under your belly button and you must engage your core to prevent crushing it.
- Begin squeezing the block between your feet.
- On an inhale lift your legs and chest of the ground, squeezing the block tightly to elevate it with your feet.
- Extent your arms, palms up, behind you.
- Stay for 3-10 breaths then rest.
Having trouble taking flight in crow? You might be lacking height. By standing on blocks in crow you create space between your hips and your arms. If you can’t naturally achieve the necessary hip flexion (how you are able to get knees high onto hips) to get into the pose, the blocks really help. This is a great prep for developing a strong crow. If you are already strong in crow try flowing between toes lifted off the blocks and resting them back down for a strengthening exercise.
- Place one or two blocks on the shorter height on the ground.
- Step onto the blocks and stand tall.
- Go into your forward fold (bend your knees a lot) reaching towards the ground.
- Place hands on ground.
- Your knees should now be able to be high on you inner or outer arm.
- Be sure not to rest knees on elbows (you want them higher).
- Press your knees slightly to your arm.
- Press a lot through your hands.
- Engage your core.
- Spot something about 4 inches in front of you on the ground.
- Stay here or on an inhale lift the one or both feet slightly, moving into crow.
- Stay in the balance (on blocks or elevated) for 3-10 breathes then rest.
Gate Pose- Parighasana
Adding a block helps to keep your hip tracking properly of your knee. When reaching towards your extended leg you can press into the block to get a slightly deeper lateral stretch. When reaching towards the supporting leg you can use a block to practice a modified half moon, without the fear of falling from quite so high.
- Set up your gate pose
- Place a block next to your supporting leg and begin pressing slightly into it (you might balance two blocks to create height) with the same hand as your extended leg.
- Extend your other arm up and over your head towards your extended leg.
- Press into the block and imagine reaching your extended hand slightly towards the wall behind you.
- Hold for 3 to ten breaths then come back to center.
- Place the block about 5 inches to the side of your supporting leg
- Begin reaching the hand of your extended leg towards the supporting leg
- You will reach a point where the your extended leg naturally want to lift, let it.
- Press your other hand onto the block for support
- Continue drawing your supporting hip towards the front of your body and be sure that your hip stays over your knee
- Stay here or if you feel balanced, let go of the block and extend your leg and extended arm fully.
- Stay for 3-10 breathes then come back to center.
If you think chair is an easy pose put a block between your knees. When you press into the block like this it stimulates muscle recruitment, meaning that you will cause more muscles to engage in the pose, this makes it much tougher. It also makes it harder to be out of alignment.
- Begin by standing feet hips distance apart
- Place a block in the space between your feet but a few inches in front of your toes
- Engage your core as you sit your hips back and bend your knees as though sitting into a chair.
- Bend forward to place the block between your knees then return to the sitting position pressing your knees slightly into the block.
- Aim to keep your shoulders over your hips, knees over toes, and hips moving back.
- Hands can be extend forward, above, or in prayer mudra at heart center.
- When you press with your knees it should engage your lower abdomen (mula bahnda) and mid core (uddiyana action).
- Hold the block for 8 to 10 breathes rest.
- Come back to the pose and try to engage the same muscles without the block.
Supine Butterfly-Supta Baddha Konasna
Even though this pose is relaxing in and of itself adding a prop under the knees allows the muscles in the legs and rest of the body to feel supported and relax without over stretching.
- Begin sitting on the ground feet about a foot in front of your thighs.
- Place a block on both sides of your body in line with your knees.
- Lie down.
- Walk your feet towards each other so the souls meet.
- Open your knees towards opposite sides, creating a hip opening.
- Rest the tops of your knees or the side of your thighs on your blocks.
- Breathe into your deep low belly.
- Stay here for up to 5 minutes.
See, I told you blocks are amazing. Let me know your favorite pose to use blocks.
Love and light,