How to Use a Yoga Block

Meet Your Yoga Block

Wooden Yoga Blocks. Natalie Faye/Image Source/Getty Images

A yoga block is an incredibly useful and versatile prop to have on hand. I always grab one as soon as I enter a yoga room, just in case I want to use it during the course of a class. If you do a lot of your yoga at home, it's probably a worthwhile investment to get at least one block, possibly two depending on how you find yourself using it. This guide will go over the primary ways that a yoga block can enhance your practice.

What's a Block?

A block, sometimes also called brick, is a solid form made out of a supportive material such as dense foam, cork, or wood. Sizes vary slightly depending on the manufacturer, but 9" x 6" x 4" is a rough standard. Prices are also variable, but can start as low as around $10 for a foam block and rising from there for more natural materials. If you find yourself without a block at home, you can hack it with a book. Most blocks are rectangular, but more ergonomic ovoid versions are also available. 

Why Use a Block?

As you'll see here, blocks can be used to good effect in many types of yoga poses. Their most basic function is to raise the floor to meet your hands so that you can do more poses with better alignment. This will increase the benefits you feel from your practice, help establish good alignments habits, and reduce your risk of injury. Sometimes you may only need to use the block until your body becomes open enough to do the pose without it, but advanced practitioners also continue to find blocks useful and supportive in many ways. 

Use a Block Under Your Hands in Balancing Poses

Half Moon With a Block. Rob Lewine/Tetra Images/Getty Images

This photo of half moon pose (ardha chandrasana) illustrates one of the primary ways to use a yoga block. The block is placed directly under your hand so that you don't have to reach all the way to the floor for balance. Once you have that stability, you can really focus on the rest of the pose, particularly opening the chest and stacking the hips. Notice that the block is directly under the shoulder to maintain optimal alignment. This strategy can be applied to any number of similar poses, including extended side angle, triangle, revolved triangle, and revolved ardha chandrasana

Use a Block for Hamstring Stretches

Pyramid Pose With Blocks. Niki van Velden/Moment Open/Getty Images

If your hamstrings are tight, blocks can help you work on poses that will lengthen them. The pose shown here is pyramid pose with a block under each hand allowing the front leg to straighten while the arms are supported instead of dangling or putting pressure on the shin. You can use blocks like this in a number of poses, from a simple forward bend like uttanasana to an advanced posture like hanumanasana

Use a Block to Raise the Floor

Lizard Pose With a Block. Eliza Snow/E+/Getty Images

You've heard of raising the roof, but raising the floor is going to be more useful to a yoga student. In the full version of lizard pose, shown here, the forearms come down to the floor. But that just isn't possible for a lot of people when they start doing yoga. Using a block under the elbows allows you safely get a feel for the posture without compromising the rest of your alignment. 

Use a Block for Support of the Spine or Seat

Supported Bridge Pose with a Block
Supported Bridge Pose with a Block. Ann Pizer

In this supported version of bridge pose, a block under the sacrum acts to give the benefits for a mild backbend without the effort of holding yourself up. The block may be turned to any of its three levels, depending on how deep you want to go. There are lots of ways to use blocks in a restorative practice, in which the body is allowed to stretch over various types of props. A block under the spine, for instance, in a pose like goddess, is another way to get a passive backbend. An ergonomic block with the corners rounded off is more comfortable for this kind of use.

Perhaps the simplest use of a block is to just sit on it to raise the hips is poses like virasana or sukasana. You can also slide one under your seat for support in malasana if squatting is difficult for you. 

Use a Block as a Spacer

Bridge Pose With the Three Minute Egg Yoga Block. Photo Courtesy of Three Minute Egg

A block can also be very useful as a spacer to train your body to foster proper alignment. For backbends like wheel or bridge (shown here with the Three Minute Egg), a block between the feet keeps them approximately hip's distance apart, while one between the thighs helps keeps the muscles engaged and the knees in line with the hips. Forearm stand provides another great opportunity to use a block as a spacer, this time between the hands. This helps set up a good foundation for the pose with the hands the proper distance apart and the elbows under the shoulders. 

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