No prop is mandatory, but the benefits derived from using them are high and very significant. Some traditional practitioners in earlier times rejected yoga props. However, with the burgeoning interest in people from all walks of life taking up yoga as a lifestyle shift, even traditional schools began realising how effective props can be.
How Exactly Would A Yoga Block Help?
They are especially useful for bodies that are inflexible or have very little ability to stretch. The way a block can help is by elevating a resting position for your hand, feet or buttocks. This, in turn, helps to relieve you of stress in trying to reach a place you otherwise could not. Instead, it eases you into a position, so that you can adjust and focus your energies to position yourself correctly and draw maximum benefit from performing a particular posture.
There are yoga blocks of different materials available. If it is only for home use, choose materials that are slightly heavier like cork blocks. The heavier they are, the more useful they will be to help you balance your weight on them. If you are a frequent traveller, you might prefer blocks made of foam. These are light. So while they make for hassle-free travel buddies, they may not be very useful in giving you enough freedom to drop your entire weight on them. And even if you do, the foam material may undergo degradation after a few months. So choose according to your lifestyle.
Some Postures with the Yoga Block
If you are investing in yoga blocks, always pick up a pair of them. Initially, you would begin with two for balance and later come down to one. Beginners can use blocks to reduce height and distance, and advanced practitioners whose reach and flexibility have already reached a certain level can use blocks to increase distance and improve on flexibility and stretching even further.
In the Upright Position
Trikonasana and Ardha Chandrasana are two poses that require you to stretch to the ground from a standing position. The bending here is along the sides and not the front. Trikonasana, as the name suggests, is a triangular posture. Beginners find these asanas much easier with a block. For extra height, the block must be kept at a position where the hand comes down to touch the floor. If you have an inflexible body, it's easier to reach the block first.
Care should be taken to touch the block with your fingertips only and not rest your entire palm. The block is for you to gain balance and get you to experience the actual position. However, should you press into the block, it will sustain the pressure, so do not worry! The block is rectangular in shape. So you can place it horizontally or vertically based on how much height you need to for better balance.
In the Sitting Position
In sitting postures, you can use a block to elevate your sitting position by placing it underneath you. This provides extra elevation for reaching out and enjoying the benefits of the posture completely. Blocks are particularly useful in Baddhakonasana (butterfly posture). If touching your toes with feet outstretched is a problem in a sitting position, just position your yoga block as a seat, sit on it and try reaching your toes. It gives you that extra edge to stretch towards your toes.
The Adho Mukha Shwanaasana is a difficult pose to master. To begin with, you can keep blocks for a height increase from the floor. This enables better stretching of calves and legs without bending at the knees. It also enables your entire foot region to rest on the mat. In an improper posture, the heel is lifted off the ground. Using yoga blocks enables you to arrive at the correct posture.
In the Viparita Karani position, you can take a position first and then gently place the yoga block below the base of the spine. This provides additional height that is needed for you to stretch vertically upward. Position the block either vertically or horizontally, as is convenient for you. Now allow the weight of your hip to drop onto the block entire and breathe in the position.
Yoga Blocks for Seasoned Practitioners If you are a seasoned yoga practitioner, you need something to challenge you. As a regular practitioner, you would have experienced the full benefit of complex asanas. Yet, from time to time, posture correction is needed. Yoga blocks come in very handy. For example, if you can execute Paschimottasana perfectly, you may wish to challenge how much more you can reach out. In this case, keep the block in front of your toes to increase length and then bend forward. Now you have raised the level of difficulty.
A yoga block will always be useful. Invest in a pair and begin to truly enjoy each asana! Have a great yoga session!