How to Use Yoga Blocks – The Ultimate Beginners Guide

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When I first started practicing yoga, I had it in my mind that if I used yoga blocks or straps that I wasn’t really “doing” yoga.

I almost felt like I was cheating.

Have you been wanting to improve your flexibility or get deeper into certain poses?

Blocks are a fantastic way to help you gain more flexibility and access postures that feel impossible to enter. I wanted to put together a post about how to use yoga blocks because so many yogis flat out refuse to use them.

There isn’t anything to be ashamed of when you use blocks! In fact, many advanced teachers use them regularly as part of their practice.

Choosing the Right Yoga Block​

There is a variety of yoga block materials and sizes on the market. How do you decide what type to buy?​

Materials​

YOGA BLOCK BY BEAN PRODUCTS

Foam: Foam blocks are the most inexpensive and the lightest, making them ideal for travel or taking along to your classes at a studio.

They’re pretty durable and easy to clean, but they do show dirt and wear quite quickly. If owning eco-friendly items is important to you, foam isn’t as earth-friendly as wood or cork blocks are.

They’re also a bit less stable if you’re putting a lot of your weight onto them, and if you have fussy wrists, you might want a less spongy block if you’re using them in standing poses or arm balances.​

hugger mugger cork yoga block

Cork: Cork blocks are more eco-friendly than foam. They’re sturdier than foam but less firm than wooden blocks. You won’t see cork blocks in studios because cork’s porous nature absorbs sweat and odors. Cork also crumbles as it ages, so they may not last as long as foam or wood.​

wood yoga block tutorial

Wood: Wooden blocks are typically made from woods like bamboo, maple, or poplar. Wood blocks are quite heavy, weighing between 1.5 to 2.5 pounds. This makes them the most suitable to your home practice. They’re incredibly durable and will probably last forever.

The downsides to a wooden block are they become slippery when your hands sweat and they are expensive. Of the three options, they are the most eco-friendly, especially if you purchase bamboo blocks.

Once you’ve purchased blocks that feel right for your body and practice, all you’ll need is a yoga mat and a desire to have some fun with your practice!

Using your Blocks in: Forward Folds​

​What You’ll Need:

  • One to two yoga blocks, depending on your current flexibility
  • Yoga Mat

How deeply you are able to get into your standing forward fold depends entirely on how flexible your hamstrings are. If you’re a runner, your hamstring flexibility may be one of the biggest challenges of your entire practice.

If you run a lot, whether you’re a distance runner or a soccer player, your hamstrings have to be tight to give you speed. I started yoga after I was a runner for a couple of years, and I was really frustrated with how tight my hammies were.

It’s taken two years of solid hamstring stretching to get to the point where I can touch my toes in a forward fold, so I understand the frustration. Blocks let you release completely into the pose without placing undue stress on your tempermental hamstrings.

The blocks bring the ground to you so you’re able to focus on your flexibility without straining for the ground.​

But you can also use them to make the stretch even more intense like in the picture above.​

Step One: Choose Your Block Height

Remember there are four sides to your block. You don’t have to put it on its lowest level! The taller you place the block, the deeper you’ll be able to fold.

Step Two: Place the Block at the Front of Your Mat

You might need two blocks for this part; it all depends on your current level of flexibility. If you’re fairly new to yoga or your hamstrings are exceptionally inflexible, I recommend placing a block under each hand at the block’s highest level.

If you only have one block, you can place both hands on just one.

As you put your hands on the block, exhale and lengthen your back and abdomen towards your thighs. With each inhale, folder more deeply.

You should feel sensation in your hamstrings, but you should never feel pain. If you’re feeling any pain, back off how deeply you’re folding.

There’s no rush! Hamstring injuries take an incredibly long time to heal, so treat them with respect.

Interest in more videos like this? Check out our Yogavibes.com review.

Using your Blocks in: Cow Pose

​What You’ll Need:

  • One to two yoga blocks, depending on your current flexibility
  • Yoga Mat
  • Blanket

The biggest challenge new yogis have with arm balances is getting their hips high enough. If you’ve been struggling getting into crow and it isn’t because your shoulders/core aren’t strong enough, try using a yoga block!

Step One: Put the Block(s) at the Back of Your Mat

Now isn’t the time to get your block as high at it goes; place it horizontally on the ground. This should be high enough to get your hips up at the required height. If you’re using two blocks, place them about hip distance apart (two fists).

If you’re worried about faceplanting (it happens!), put a folded blanket in front of you. Sometimes having that extra cushion eliminates fear.

Step Two: Get Into Malasana (Squat) on the Block

Squat on the block with your big toes touching and your knees apart. With two blocks, put one foot on each block.

Stay here for as many breaths as you need until you feel secure and balanced. When you’re ready, place your hands onto the ground in front of you and tuck your knees as far up the backs of your arms as they’ll go.

Step Three: Pick One Foot Up at a Time

Lean into your hands and practice picking one foot up, setting it down, then picking up the other foot. Don’t feel like you immediately have to go right into picking both feet up at the same time. This takes practice!

Using your Blocks in: Lizard Pose

​What You’ll Need:

  • One to two yoga blocks, depending on your current flexibility
  • Yoga Mat
  • Deep breaths (seriously!)

If you’ve ever done lizard pose, you know it’s an incredibly deep hip opener. The hips are known as the garbage cans of the body, so when you really get your hips open, you tend to dump a bunch of pent up emotions and feelings.

Lizard pose burns no matter how advanced you are, and using a block as support will let you get deeper into your hips without injuring yourself or completely hating the pose.

Step One: Place the Block(s) at the Front of the Mat

How tall you put your block(s) depends on how tight your hips are or how deep you’re wanting to get into the pose. The long side of the block should be parallel to the long side of your mat for more arm support. If you’re using two blocks, place them shoulder-width apart.

Step Two: Get into Your Lizard Pose

From downdog, bring your foot forward into low lunge. Put your back knee down as you heel-toe your foot out towards the upper corner of your mat. Bring your hands to the inside of your leg and straighten your back leg for a deeper stretch, stretching through your heel and releasing energy from the back of your knee.

Step Three: Relax Onto Your Blocks

Place your forearms down onto your blocks, extend your heart so your back lengthens, and look forward! If you look down, your back is going to round. You can rock forward and back if it helps allevaite some of the discomfort. No matter how much it burns, remember you want sensation, not pain!

If your hips are tight, you can keep your back knee down and your arms straight.

Prepping Your Hamstrings for Hanumanasana

A video posted by oneOeight (@oneoeight.tv) on

​What You’ll Need:

  • Two yoga blocks
  • Yoga Mat
  • Blanket for knee cushioning

Otherwise known as the yogi splits, hanumanasana is one of the most beautiful and challenging yoga postures. It combines hamstring flexibility, core strength, and how open your hips are.

This is definitely considered an advanced pose, but yoga blocks are a great way to achieve the right combination of flexibility, openness, and strength needed to achieve it.

Since most of you are probably beginner or intermediate yogis, I’m going to stick with a tutorial on how to prepare for hanumasana with blocks instead of how to get into the full pose.​

Step One: Get into Runner’s Lunge

From a low lunge, drop your back knee. Position your hips so they’re directly over your back knee, straighten your front leg, and wiggle your front foot out in front of you so you can straighten your leg completely.

Push your heel into the ground and flex your foot to protect your knee. Make sure you’re keeping a microbend in the knee of your straight leg.

Step Two: Put Two Blocks Under Your Hands

Before you fold over the straightened leg, position two blocks on either side of your leg. Place them at whatever height works best for your current hamstring flexibility.

Putting the blocks in this position brings the ground closer to you so you can fold more deeply without overtaxing your hamstring.

Step Three: Put the Blocks Under Your Thigh (Alternative)

If you want to start prepping even more for the splits, from runner’s lunge, lift your back knee and scoot it back a few inches until you feel your groin opening.

Put your knee back down Place a block under your hamstring (on the straight leg) and allow your weight to sink into it. To begin with, having the block at its tallest height will be more comfortable.

Ensure your hips are always square and facing forward. Don’t expect to be able to straighten your back leg right away; this will take weeks or months of consistent practice to access the deeper version.

Yoga Blocks in Restorative Poses

​What You’ll Need:

  • One or two yoga blocks
  • Yoga Mat
  • Blanket for cushioning, if needed

When you’re learning how to use yoga blocks, sometimes restorative poses get overlooked. A good vinyasa flow class is a delicious way to practice, but you’re missing out if you aren’t taking the time to do a yin or restorative practice at least once a week.

My favorite way to sneak some restorative poses into my regular practice is with a savasana or backbend alternative. Give them a try; they’re totally worth switching your regular poses out for!​

Step One: Supported Bridge Pose

Putting a block under your sacrum in bridge pose gives you a deeper release in the hip flexors. How high you put the block depends on how deeply you want to go into your backbend.

As you get into bridge pose with your feet hip distance apart, lift your hips and slide the block under your sacrum. I put it horizontally so it’s supporting my entire pelvis, but you can also put it vertically against the sacrum.

Relax your hips onto the block and clasp your hands in front of the block for more release in your lower back.

Step Two: Supta Baddha Konasana ( reclined bound angle pose)

As you go onto your back to prepare for savasana, open your knees and place the soles of your feet together. Before you settle into the pose, place a block under each knee or hip.

The lower you place the block, the deeper your hip opener will be. For extra coziness, put your blanket under your head as a pillow.

I think a lot of students miss out on the benefits of yoga props. If a teacher asked “What are yoga blocks for?”, you might say they’re for beginning students who aren’t flexible. I want to help end this notion!

I used to believe this, and now that I’ve learned how to use yoga blocks, I see they actually challenge my practice instead of making it easier.

Don’t think of yoga blocks as something to make things simpler. Look at them as tools to enhance your practice and challenge everything you think you know about your asana.

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