Make Friends with your Block:
props are not just for beginners
Challenge for this week: make friends with your block! Leave that pesky ego at the door with your shoes, and see how using props can change your practice!
So many people feel that using props means that they aren’t “achieving” the pose, or that blocks are just for beginners. So incredibly untrue!!! Blocks are for ALL of us! They are like your little superhero friend, swooping in when we need a little lift or support here and there.
Instead of regressing your practice, they can actually help to stop you from overcompensating in other parts of your body and allow you to experience a little more openness, and increase your ability to B R E A T H E freely — and who doesn’t want that?!
Find the balance between effort and ease – props are not there to make poses ‘easy’ but to make them accessible, so that you can gain the benefits of the pose!
Let’s break down four common poses you might find a block useful for in a general class:
Utthita Trikonasana | Extended Triangle Pose
The aim here is to find length in the body – extended spine, top shoulder stacked over bottom and extending arms away from one another, chest opening.
In the first picture, can you see that my neck is strained and my upper body is collapsing towards the floor, as I strain to reach the palm down? Either bring that bottom hand up to press on the inside of the shin (or higher), or place that palm on a block!
In the second picture, I can now turn my head freely, my chest is open and my arms can find find more length? Magic! Or is it?!
The beauty of the block is that it brings the ground to you! It is there to support you. Poses should never be painful, and you should be able to breathe freely – if not, modify!
If this is you in the first picture, give this a go this week in your practice and let us know how it feels!
– strengthens legs, knees, ankles, abdominal and back muscles
– stretches hamstrings, quads, knees, angles, shoulders, chest, spine
– stimulates abdominal muscles and improves digestion
Ardha Parsvottanasana | Pyramid Pose
What we want – hips aligned, length in the spine, neutral neck.
If you’re straining to get hands to the floor, generally you’ll be rounding through your back and bending into front knee or tipping to one side.
Solution: enlist your friend! A block under each hand allows you to find length in the spine and straighten through the front leg (note – don’t lock the knee). The magical block once again creating space for you to breathe freely and not be straining.
– strengthens legs and spine
– stretches front and back of legs, ankles
– lengthens spine
– improves posture
Ardha Hanumanasana | Half Splits pose
If you find yourself straining to reach the ground here, give it a try with a block under each hand (bring the blocks under your shoulders). This should allow some more freedom in your body, meaning you can take deeper, smoother breaths and enjoy the benefits!
– stretches lower back, hamstrings, IT band and glutes, ankles and feet
– elongates the spine
– prep for full splits
Uttanasana | Standing Forward Bend
(you might notice there is not a block in this photo – well, read on!)
“I bend so I don’t break.”
Have you heard this quote before? Here’s a good example!! Do you find it impossible to reach the floor in a forward fold? Does it pull on your lower back, or cause pain? Are your hamstrings super tight, that they won’t give an inch?
Introducing your old friend – your knees! Did you know that they bend?!
Come down with bent knees, and once you are down, you can gradually begin to straighten the legs over time. Alternatively, use two blocks under your hands.
The aim here is to get a stretch down the entire length of your back body, from ankles to back of the head.
– relieving headaches, fatigue and anxiety
– improving digestion
– strengthens thighs and knees
– stimulates liver and kidneys.
So many benefits from a seemingly simple posture!