Props And Yoga Blocks
Yoga has come a long way since it began to spread across western culture. What started out as a practice with a towel or carpet, has evolved into a whole world of props (Yoga blocks, straps etc.), clothing and culture. It is true that you need only little to have a good yoga session; however, human beings relish the idea of pushing the boundaries.
Props have helped both beginners and experts explore poses that would be too difficult without any help. One of the most popular props to use in class is the yoga block. Made from foam, bamboo, wood or cork, the block is often used as an extension of the arms, but can also support the back, head and hips to help the body settle into a pose.
Yoga blocks were not always around but during the 20th century, after 5000 years of yoga in India, Yogi B.K.S. Iyengar first introduced the use of props to yoga. They including mats, cushions, benches, straps, sandbags and yoga blocks. An Iyengar practice emphasizes attention to detail and precise body alignment, aided by the use of props. Yoga blocks enable students to perform the asanas correctly by bringing the floor closer to you, minimising the risk of injury or strain, and making the postures accessible to both young and old. Now you just need to find the best yoga block for you.
Wooden Yoga Blocks
In the ’70s and until quite recently, blocks were almost always made of wood. The Yoga Journal reports that people would make their own blocks, often leaving sharp edges, and the size was never uniform. They weren’t easy to transport either. Modern foam, and more recently cork, blocks are very popular when it comes to practicality: storage and transport, but many yogis still prefer wood for stability and for being eco-friendly.
Cork Yoga Blocks
Cork yoga blocks are a perfect choice if a wood block doesn’t kick it. They are firm, sturdy, grounding, eco-friendly and provide great support on your weight. They are also anti-microbial meaning that if you sweat, you won’t slip. They are great to use during Vinyasa, Iyengar, Hot Yoga, Intermediate and advanced Yoga classes. These classes generally require more firm blocks for a more supported pose experience which cork blocks provide perfectly.
Bamboo Yoga Blocks
Bamboo Yoga blocks are always a nice addition if you prefer a material similar to wood. They are just as stable and functional as wood, but extremely lightweight and much more eco-friendly. Although they are sturdy, hard and look great – bamboo blocks are not absorbent and can become slippery in a hot environment. Bamboo blocks are perfect for general poses; in contrast, foam and cork blocks are better for restorative yoga.
Foam Yoga Blocks
Foam blocks are the softest, lightest and cheapest of the three types. They have a lot of give, which may be a good thing or a bad one depending on the purpose you want them for. If you are placing them on your back to lay your spine onto them, they are great, but if you are placing them under your hands while your body weight lies on them, they may harm your wrists.
What about Size?
Whether you buy a Gaiam yoga block, a Manduka yoga block, or any brand that you prefer – consider the size and choose the best for you. In terms of yoga block sizes, 4-Inch Yoga Blocks are the standard. The dimensions (4″ x 6″ x 9″) have been found to be the most universally useful for average practitioners. Anything smaller is good for a petite frame and the opposite is true for bigger blocks and taller frame.
How to Use
Yoga blocks give you the ability to do poses that you would have thought were not possible without. Poses such as Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (The Bridge), Ustrasana (The Camel), Ardha Chandrasana (The Half Moon), Parivrtta Trikonasana (The Revolved Triangle) or Matsyasana (The Fish Pose) are now within reach for the most basic yoga practitioner to the most advanced. In addition, yoga blocks are particularly good for releasing tight muscles such as the hips flexors and a popular to use during Yin Yoga.
Yoga Block Stretches for Tightness
There can never be enough ways to relieve the tension in our back, chest, and shoulders. Bad posture and rounding forward in our shoulders for work and daily life has become the norm. Our chest and shoulder muscles have shortened and tightened while our spines have become misaligned. Yoga blocks allow you to get deeper into the stretch than you would on your own. They also offer excellent support for the body so that stretches and poses can be held for longer periods. Whether you are suffering from back pain, bad posture, or just want to become more flexible, yoga blocks are perfect for you.
Thinking of buying a yoga block? You can buy one in Target, Amazon or any yoga store. We advise you to use the prop in class before going at it on your own. Ask your instructor to show you how to use the block first (especially for long stretches to release tight joints) and enjoy a whole new range of poses.