Fitting Yoga Blocks Into Your Alternative Health Plan

The proper use of yoga blocks can not only enable you to hold poses more comfortably and for a longer time, but can also improve your body alignment so that you gain more health benefits from each pose in your yoga practice.

Intimidated by those flexible, pretzel shaped people you see holding yoga poses forever in your favorite DVD? The proper use of yoga blocks can not only enable you to hold poses more comfortably and for a longer time, but can also improve your body alignment so that you gain more health benefits from each pose in your yoga practice.

Yoga blocks are most useful when you want to hold a specific pose for a length of time, less so in vinyasas, or flow sequences, where they can get in the way of a series of movements. There are no health benefits to be gained from trying to force your body into a position it isn't ready for. Modifying a pose by the use of a block will enable you to experience the benefits of the pose and learn the proper body alignment, while reducing the risk of a pulled muscle or other injury. Many yoga teachers will be able to talk you through the proper placement of the block while they are articulating the pose for the class.

Yoga blocks are also known as yoga bricks, because of their brick-like shape. They come in various sizes, but most are in the general neighborhood of 4" x 6" x 9". Some are made of high density foam - the advantages to this material are that it is slip resistant, easy to grab onto, and offers a slight amount of give. The drawbacks are mostly aesthetic, the chemically made foam can emit a sharp odor when the bricks are new, and some yogis prefer to work with more props made of natural materials. If this is your preference, you can find hollow yoga blocks made of lightly varnished wood. The wood blocks offer more resistance, but can be a little slippery if not placed properly.


The newest innovation in yoga block design is the ergonomically designed block. These look like miniature dumbbells - two small foam blocks separated by a pole-like grip. For poses in which you would normally support your body weight on flat hands, for example, Downward Facing Dog, you support your upper body by wrapping your fingers around the center pole and gripping. This position is easier on the hands and wrists for many people, especially if you do not have strong wrists to begin with.

One of the great things about yoga blocks is that they are so easily adjustable. Perhaps when you are learning a pose that requires more flexibility that you currently have, you will need to place the block on its smallest end, giving you a rise of about 9" from the floor. As your flexibility increases, or you want to explore the pose more deeply, you can change the direction of the yoga block so you are now 6" from the floor. With continued practice, you may want to try the block at 4", and eventually may not need the block at all. Because you can get a different height with just the flip of the side the block is resting on, you can instantly accommodate how your body is feeling on a given day, or even on a given side. Not everyone's body is symmetrical; you may need a 4" boost when doing a pose to one side, and no block at all, or 6" boost when turning to the other side. Flexibility can change from class to class depending on what else is going on in your body. Having a yoga block or two nearby means you can listen to your body in any given pose, and make proper adjustments so you are as comfortable as you can be,

A yoga practice is an individual affair. Make whatever modifications you need to get the most out of your practice, with the least risk of injury.

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