Yoga blocks are typical tools in modern yoga practices. Their humble exterior, often rendered in materials such as foam, cork, or wood, belies a profound functionality.
As you know, some yoga poses are very complicated and require high technique. By offering practitioners the means to navigate their unique anatomical and biomechanical constraints, these blocks bridge the chasm between aspiration and capability. Their role isn’t merely to serve as a crutch for those grappling with flexibility or balance challenges; they also facilitate the deepening of asanas, enabling seasoned yogis to explore previously inaccessible dimensions of their practice.
What is a yoga block?
A yoga block acts as a prop to facilitate alignment, provide support, and increase flexibility during yoga exercises. Composed primarily of foam, wood, or cork, this rectangular prism is lightweight yet sturdy, designed to withstand the pressure exerted during various yoga poses without collapsing or losing shape.
The origin of yoga blocks is rooted in the 20th century when B.K.S. Iyengar, a pioneering figure in the world of yoga, introduced props to assist practitioners in achieving correct postural alignment. Iyengar’s underlying philosophy was to make yoga accessible to individuals regardless of their physical constraints. As such, yoga blocks emerged as a means to bridge the gap between the yogi and the floor, providing additional height, balance and support where required.
One of the primary functions of a yoga block is to reduce the distance between the yogi and the ground, which proves beneficial in poses like Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) or Trikonasana (triangle pose). Here, the block, placed under the hands, grants stability, enabling practitioners to fully extend their spines without overstretching or straining their muscles. Moreover, for beginners or those with limited flexibility, the block acts as an intermediary, allowing them to gradually work towards deepening their postures.
Furthermore, the yoga block offers multifaceted applications in various poses. In poses such as Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulder stand), the block can be placed under the sacrum to lift the pelvis, ensuring spinal alignment. In contrast, for restorative practices, it can be used as a bolster under the back, head, or limbs to provide gentle elevation and relaxation.
The yoga block’s material composition often corresponds to its intended use. Foam blocks, being softer and more pliable, are ideal for restorative practices, ensuring cushioning and comfort. In contrast, cork and wooden blocks, due to their inherent rigidity and stability, are better suited for weight-bearing poses where support and alignment are paramount.
Types of yoga blocks
Yoga blocks come in a variety of materials, each with their own unique properties, benefits and applications. The choice of block often depends on the practitioner’s preferences, the type of yoga practiced, and the specific requirements of certain asanas. LotusBuddhas would like to explain the different types of yoga blocks being used by many people and the inherent characteristics of each type:
- Foam blocks:
- Composition: Made primarily from EVA foam or other types of dense foam.
- Characteristics: Lightweight, soft to touch and pliable.
- Applications: Ideal for practitioners who prefer cushioning, especially when the block is used under parts of the body that require soft support, like the back or the head. Often recommended for restorative yoga or for beginners who are acclimating to the use of props.
- Cork blocks:
- Composition: Crafted from natural cork material.
- Characteristics: Firmer than foam, offering a sturdier grip, yet still retains some level of softness. Sustainable and eco-friendly.
- Applications: Suitable for poses that require more stability, such as balancing postures. The textured surface provides excellent grip, ensuring the block remains stationary during practice.
- Wooden blocks:
- Composition: Typically made from bamboo, birch, maple, or other hardwoods.
- Characteristics: Solid, rigid, and heavy. Long-lasting and durable.
- Applications: Preferred for Iyengar yoga or practices that demand unwavering support. Their weight and solidity make them ideal for weight-bearing postures. However, their hard surface may be uncomfortable for some practitioners when placed under the body.
- Recycled material blocks:
- Composition: Constructed using recycled materials, often post-industrial or post-consumer waste.
- Characteristics: Varies based on the specific recycled material used. Generally, they prioritize environmental sustainability.
- Applications: Suitable for eco-conscious practitioners who seek to minimize their carbon footprint. The firmness and grip vary based on the type of recycled material used.
- Bamboo blocks:
- Composition: Manufactured using bamboo, a fast-growing and sustainable resource.
- Characteristics: Lightweight compared to other wooden blocks, with a smooth finish. Naturally antibacterial.
- Applications: A sustainable alternative to traditional wooden blocks, providing the firm support of wood without the heavier weight.
In addition to the material composition, yoga blocks can also vary in size, with standard dimensions being 9″x6″x4″. However, both larger and smaller versions are available to cater to different body types and specific asana requirements.
Different ways to use yoga blocks
Yoga blocks, given their versatility, have been adopted into yoga practice in various capacities, each with specific objectives in mind. Their strategic utilization can enhance alignment, bolster strength, and deepen your engagement with individual postures. In this next section, LotusBuddhas will share the different ways you can integrate yoga blocks into your yoga practice.
- Enhancing flexibility: For those with limited flexibility, the block can bridge the gap between the hand and the ground, as witnessed in poses such as Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) and Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose). By offering an elevated platform, it allows the practitioner to maintain optimal alignment without strain.
- Deepening postures: The block can be a tool to intensify a pose. For instance, in Malasana (Garland Pose) or Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge), placing a block between the thighs engages the inner thighs and promotes greater stability and alignment.
- Bolstering balance: In balancing postures such as Vrksasana (Tree Pose) or Natarajasana (Dancer’s Pose), a block can be held in the hands or placed at the foot to aid stability, allowing the practitioner to refine their posture without the constant threat of toppling over.
- Supporting restorative poses: In restorative yoga, blocks are invaluable. When positioned under the knees in Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) or under the pelvis in Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose), they facilitate relaxation and release by providing passive support to the body.
- Ensuring proper alignment: For alignment-focused postures, a block’s placement can act as a tactile guide. For example, in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), holding a block between the thighs can ensure that they are parallel, thereby encouraging proper pelvic alignment.
- Strengthening drills: Blocks can be integrated into strength-building exercises. Placing them between the thighs during core drills, such as Navasana (Boat Pose), can increase muscle engagement and challenge the practitioner further.
- Aiding in relaxation: In Savasana (Corpse Pose), a block under the occiput (base of the skull) can facilitate cervical alignment, making relaxation more accessible and profound.
- Facilitating seated poses: In seated postures like Siddhasana (Adept’s Pose) or Padmasana (Lotus Pose), where hip flexibility may be a constraint, a block under the sit bones can elevate the pelvis, promoting a neutral spine and reducing strain on the hips and lower back.
- Enhancing pranayama practices: In supine pranayama exercises, placing a block under the thoracic spine can help open up the chest, allowing for deeper, unobstructed breaths.
- Supporting inversions: For inversion practices, such as Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand), blocks can be used as foundational tools, either as bases for the forearms or for added height and support.
Yoga blocks offer a multifaceted approach to deepening one’s yoga practice, and embody the adaptive and holistic nature of yoga, ensuring that each student’s journey is personalized, safe and satisfying.
How to choose the right yoga blocks
Given yoga block multifaceted utility, selecting the appropriate block necessitates a comprehensive evaluation of certain key parameters. LotusBuddhas would like to suggest important criteria that you should consider when choosing the right yoga block for you:
- Foam: Lightweight and soft, foam blocks are versatile and suitable for beginners. However, their durability may be lower compared to cork or wood.
- Cork: Naturally sustainable and offering a firmer grip than foam, cork blocks are more rigid but still provide some level of cushioning.
- Wood or Bamboo: These are the most solid and durable, ideal for practices requiring unwavering support. However, they can be heavy and lack the cushioning of foam or cork.
- Size and Dimensions:
- Standard yoga blocks usually measure 9″x6″x4″. For those with smaller hands or looking for less elevation, a block measuring 9″x6″x3″ may be more suitable.
- One must consider hand size, the intended use, and personal comfort when determining the optimal block dimensions.
- The weight of a block is directly influenced by its material. While foam blocks are lightweight and portable, wooden blocks are heftier, providing stability, especially in balance-intensive asanas.
- Texture and Grip:
- A block’s surface texture affects grip and comfort. Cork blocks naturally have a non-slip surface, while foam blocks might vary in texture based on manufacturing. It’s paramount to select a block that ensures the hand or body doesn’t slide during practice.
- If the yoga practice is frequent and intensive, opting for a more durable material, such as wood or high-density foam, is advisable.
- For the environmentally conscious, materials like cork or bamboo are renewable and sustainable. Some foam blocks are also made from eco-friendly, non-toxic, and recyclable materials.
- Cleanliness and Maintenance:
- Blocks made from closed-cell foam or finished wood are more resistant to moisture and easier to clean, an essential factor if used in sweaty practices like hot yoga.
- Price and Affordability:
- Budget constraints inevitably influence the choice. While foam blocks are generally more affordable, cork and wooden blocks, given their durability, might offer better long-term value.
- Feedback and Reviews:
- Especially when purchasing online, reviews from other users can provide invaluable insights regarding the block’s real-world performance, durability and potential shortcomings.
- Personal needs and Preferences:
- Ultimately, individual biomechanical constraints, the style of yoga practiced, and personal preferences play a pivotal role. For instance, those with joint issues might prefer the cushioning of foam, while Iyengar practitioners might opt for the rigidity of wood.
In a nutshell, choosing a suitable yoga block goes beyond mere aesthetic appeal and delves into functional and personal considerations. A sound assessment, based on the aforementioned LotusBuddhas criteria, ensures that the block selected not only complements your operation, but also reinforces the overarching goals of alignment, safety and comprehensive participation.
Tips for using yoga blocks in your yoga practice
Yoga blocks are an indispensable addition to modern yoga practice. However, to maximize the effectiveness of these tools, it is imperative that you use them with caution. Following, LotusBuddhas will provide a set of guidelines for effectively incorporating yoga blocks into your practice:
- Prioritize alignment over depth: When using a block, the primary aim should be to attain proper alignment rather than deepening the pose. For instance, in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), a block can assist in maintaining a straight spine by elevating the hand, instead of compromising alignment by reaching the floor.
- Adapt block height to personal needs: Most blocks have three different height settings: low, medium, and tall. It’s crucial to select the height that ensures optimal alignment, comfort, and stability, understanding that this may vary across different asanas and individual flexibility levels.
- Maintain grip and stability: Ensure that the block is placed on a stable surface, and when weight-bearing, the hand or foot should be centered to prevent the block from tipping.
- Be dynamic in usage: The utility of the block is not limited to static support. It can be used dynamically, as in transitioning from one pose to another or in enhancing specific stretches, like in Pigeon Pose, where it can be placed under the front hip for support and adjusted as flexibility increases.
- Combine with other props: Yoga blocks can be paired with other props like straps or bolsters to augment their benefits. For instance, in Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), a strap can be looped around the feet and held with the hands, while a block supports the seated base to ensure a straight spine.
- Engage in regular experimentation: The human body is not static, and as such, its needs during a yoga practice may evolve. Regularly assess the use of the block in different poses and adjust its placement, height, or even the type of block used.
- Prioritize comfort in restorative poses: In restorative practices, the emphasis should be on relaxation and comfort. When using a block in poses like Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose), ensure that it does not cause undue pressure or discomfort.
- Embrace the block’s versatility: Apart from traditional applications, be open to using the block for strength-building exercises, balance drills, or even meditation seating.
- Clean and maintain: Given the physical contact and potential for sweat absorption, especially with foam and cork blocks, regular cleaning is advisable. This not only ensures hygiene but also prolongs the block’s lifespan.
- Stay open to feedback: While self-assessment is valuable, feedback from a trained yoga instructor can offer insights into the block’s optimal placement and adjustments tailored to individual needs.
Where to buy quality yoga blocks?
At this point, you already know the importance of yoga block, right! With many benefits, yoga blocks are receiving more and more attention from yoga practitioners around the world. Buying them can be accessed through many different channels, but to own quality yoga blocks to ensure safety is not easy for beginners. To help you, LotusBuddhas would like to introduce some of the main avenues through which you can purchase quality yoga blocks:
- Specialty yoga retailers: Establishments dedicated solely to yoga equipment often house a curated selection of yoga blocks, emphasizing quality and durability. Their specialization often ensures a broader range of materials, brands, and sizes, catering to diverse practitioner needs.
- General sporting goods stores: These outlets, catering to an array of sporting disciplines, typically incorporate a yoga section. Herein, one can expect to find standard, quality-tested blocks alongside other foundational equipment.
- E-commerce platforms: Online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, and regional e-commerce counterparts present a vast array of options. The distinct advantage of such platforms encompasses the breadth of choice, user reviews, and competitive pricing. Thorough examination of product descriptions, specifications, and user feedback can guide buyers towards quality products.
- Direct brand websites: Many eminent yoga equipment brands maintain their e-commerce portals, offering their complete product range. Purchasing directly often ensures authenticity, and one may benefit from brand-specific discounts, warranty provisions and exclusive product releases.
- Local yoga studios: Several studios, recognizing the essentiality of quality props in practice, offer retail sections, ensuring their patrons have access to premium equipment. These venues also afford the added advantage of guidance from seasoned instructors, ensuring the chosen block aligns with individual requirements.
- Eco-friendly and sustainable stores: As the gravitation towards environmentally-conscious choices intensifies, certain establishments focusing exclusively on sustainable products have begun to offer yoga blocks crafted from eco-friendly materials or processes.
- Craft fairs and artisanal markets: For individuals inclined towards handcrafted, unique products, local markets might present options in wooden or bamboo blocks, emphasizing craftsmanship and individuality.
- Wholesale suppliers: For those seeking bulk acquisitions, such as yoga studios or workshops, liaising directly with manufacturers or utilizing platforms like Alibaba can yield quality blocks at competitive prices.
When selecting a purchase avenue, you should consider factors like product authenticity, return policies, shipping fees (for online purchases), and the availability of after-sales service. Moreover, given the tactile nature of yoga blocks, you might benefit from physically examining the product, if feasible, before finalizing their purchase.
Yoga block alternatives
Yoga blocks cater to a spectrum of practitioners, from novices grappling with flexibility constraints to seasoned yogis seeking depth and alignment. However, not every practitioner might have immediate access to these standardized props. In such scenarios, alternatives that mimic the form and function of a conventional yoga block can be employed.
- Composition: Hardbound books, preferably of a sizable thickness.
- Characteristics: Rigid, with varying sizes available.
- Applications: Suitable as stand-ins for traditional yoga blocks for poses requiring elevation or support. However, ensure the book’s edges do not cause discomfort.
- Towels or Blankets:
- Composition: Folded thick towels or blankets.
- Characteristics: Soft and adjustable thickness based on folding.
- Applications: Ideal for cushioning in seated postures or under the knees. They can also be stacked to achieve desired heights, though they lack the rigidity of traditional blocks.
- Shoe boxes:
- Composition: Empty, sturdy shoe boxes.
- Characteristics: Semi-rigid, lightweight.
- Applications: Can be used for minor elevation in seated postures or to support the hands in standing poses. Their structural integrity may not be robust enough for weight-bearing asanas.
- Composition: Firm pillows, preferably of uniform shape.
- Characteristics: Soft, providing cushioning.
- Applications: Suitable for restorative yoga, bolstering in supine poses, or providing gentle elevation in seated postures.
- Cans or Bottles:
- Composition: Large, sturdy cans or bottles.
- Characteristics: Rigid, cylindrical.
- Applications: While unconventional, they can be employed for minor elevation or support in some poses, especially when a narrower base is acceptable.
- Composition: Standard construction bricks.
- Characteristics: Very rigid, heavy, with rough texture.
- Applications: Given their weight and texture, bricks should be used with caution. They can provide strong support in standing postures but might be uncomfortable for direct body contact without a cushioning layer.
- Sturdy cardboard boxes:
- Composition: Densely constructed cardboard boxes.
- Characteristics: Semi-rigid, lightweight.
- Applications: Similar to shoe boxes, but available in larger sizes, these can offer elevation and support in various poses. However, they might not withstand extensive weight-bearing.
When employing alternatives, you should exercise prudence. The chosen alternative must offer stability, ensuring safety. If an alternative feels unstable or causes discomfort, it should be adjusted or replaced. Additionally, while these alternatives can replace yoga blocks in certain situations, LotusBuddhas recommends investing in a dedicated block that is recommended for those who practice regularly, due to its design, suitability and durability.