In my last article, I explored some of the ways we can use a humble yoga blanket to get curious about movement and play with traditional asanas. The yoga block (or brick) is often seen as a way to bring the ground closer to you in traditional standing postures, such as triangle and reverse triangle. Let’s see how the yoga block can do a whole lot more for you and your students with these exercises.
Whole New Height
Placing a block under one foot can challenge balance, proprioception, and strength in standing poses and balances.
-Elevated tree: Place a block under one foot and set up for tree pose. If the block is squishy foam, as opposed to cork or wood, the body will need to adjust in new ways to stay upright. For more challenge, play with gaze and closing the eyes.
-Warrior II on a block: In this image, YTU® teacher Kirsten Trued plays with warrior II on a block to build strength in the front leg and create new asymmetry. Read her corresponding blog for more details on the benefits of this pose. What other standing poses could benefit from this challenge?
-Asymmetrical Uttanasana: In this video, Jill Miller demonstrates asymmetrical uttanasana, and whole new way to fold, side bend, and create asymmetry.
-Coreso Leg Lifts: Elevating the pelvis on a block turns a core exercise into a new way to challenge the psoas muscles, while also strengthening the shoulders and bringing bottom hip into extension. Also consider apanasana on a block as well!
Weight It Up
Depending on the type of block you have with you, adding a block as weight can really be a challenge!
-Block Shoulder Extension: Using a cork or wooden block, grip the block behind the hips with both hands. Keep a neutral spine and head as you start to lift the arms into extension-extra challenging with a cork block!
-Try balancing a cork or wooden block on the top of your head as your work at your desk, practice asana, or just walk! Head carrying is a great way to challenge proprioception, neck musculature, and stability.
-Add a block to other shoulder and upper body poses- try holding a block in each arm in warrior 2 or triangle!
Sometimes you just need a little elevation to roll it out with YTU® therapy balls.
-Neck nurturing: I love elevating the head to get to the subocciptals. Jill demonstrates this in her video here.
-Shin roll: Elevating one shin on a block can get just the right angle to roll out the front of your shins. (Image above)
-Pec pec pec: Roll out the anterior chest tissues with a little elevation, either on the floor with two blocks, or one here at the wall with Brooke Thomas.
As you can see, there are many novel ways to use props. One of my favorite things about YTU is the encouragement to think creatively and bust your classes out of the box(ana)!
Enjoyed this article? Read Deconstruct Your Pose to Put it Together Again
I enjoy adding a block for weight and keeping form. Nice double duty
I am learning to think outside of the boxana right now in YTU training and have found this blog helpful in dissecting Directions in movement and adjusting the relationship to gravity.
I love the variations to use the block for self massage. Thanks!
I hadn’t played with standing on blocks until recently, and it’s been a great addition! Thanks for giving some more ideas!
Yes, assymetrical pose for better propreoception !
This is a great post but I think your bio is also remarkable! Of course musicians need body work, just like athletes do! This is such a great point to remember I’m teaching as well as marketing!
I love how adding blocks can make well-known, comfortable poses feel fresh and exciting again! I have been experimenting with some of those listed above but I have to be very mindful of how I use them seeing as I have some SI joint instability and the added asymetry sometimes makes me nervous.
I absolutely LOVE the creative ankle/edge you suggest with the poses and using blocks/bricks. Hones in right on what Jill always talks about with thinking outside the box-asana! It is a total shift of perspective which I love and I feel classes lately lack. I am definitly going to start playing around with these alternatives in my own practice so I can self study and then integrate into my teachings to my students!! I’ll report back on how it was received. Feel free to share any other gems for creative spins. I always love the creativity!!
Wow! I love your ideas! I thought I was creative with using props, but you gave me many new ideas. I’ll try right now balancing a block on my head while working at my desk. I’ll definitely use your suggestions in my classes. Thank you!
I love that you wrote this article of ways to practice (even grow in your practice) with the support of blocks!! Props get a bad rap in the yoga community. Some see it as a sign of weakness when actually they advance your practice, protect your body and allow you to study your own body!! Thank you so much for the examples and ideas of integration. I have been integrating the blocks into my practice especially my bridge practice to help me be sure I am igniting the proper muscles (inner thighs,pelvic floor and of course my core!) Double bonus is I use it after for a nice restore bridge which is great after working hard. nothing like a restore bridge to stretch the psoas.
So many so called advanced yogis think the props only to regress a pose. Thank you for sharing all of the interesting ways we can use blocks to level up a pose. Super creative and informative!
I’m in the YUT Level 1 TT and I’m learning so many creative ways to use the block! I’m so excited to try all the ones you shared here. My favorite one so far is one leg apanasana with block under the sacrum. It feels so good to do after doing lots of hip flexion strengthening work. Thank you for sharing your ideas!
I taught Holy Cow at the Trough with a block last night in my more traditional vinyasa class during which I was focusing on keeping our shoulders safe. My students LOVED it, and were shocked at how many muscles they could actually FEEL working. Thank you for another great post about using props to up level. I think a common misconception when we pull props out for students is that they are lesser than, but there’s something so great about going to a YTU class and seeing the prop closet entirely empty because we’re using them all in such creative ways to actually up level and challenge our body’s proprioception.
More reasons to get the blocks out and explore in every pose! Thanks!
Thank you for creative and innovative ways for us to consider using yoga props. Coming across this is timely, as we just spend a substantial amount of time talking about closing the chain and pose orientation in YTU training.
Thanks for the random variety of fun ideas to try! It disappoints me that so many people let their egos get in the way and see a block as a “crutch” or something that only less adept practitioners need. I love thinking of props as playthings and I think the yoga community at large is starting to come around to that idea, thanks to innovative ideas like the ones you listed.
Nice to see how we can use materail like blok to discover other sensation in our body and to teach those differents purposes to change and help students in a yoga tune up class. Thank you
Thanks for reframing the use of blocks from something students ‘outgrow’ and eventually won’t need to allies in the practice as they shift proprioception and shift body awareness. YTU has definitely brought an appreciation into my practice for the foam blocks (which tend to be quite annoying as floor lifters but are actually a blessing in some of the more intense YTU exercises :))
Without blocks, I wouldn’t even be able to do a lot of poses. Sometimes, I even need 4 blocks to keep a neutral spine.
I love the creative ideas to use a block in practice. often students perceive the block as being an indication that their practice is less advanced or limited in some way. It is great to have ideas to add the block to challenge different aspects of a pose.
Great article. Another way a block can be powerful is to use it as the fixed drishti point. During a training last year, one of my teachers had us carry the block during the entire practice and it was quite the experience and a challenge for the mind eg. block between thighs in downdog, held between the hands in warrior I, held by front hand in warrior 2 etc. And never allow your drishti to leave your block. I recommend that anyone try it. What’s the worst that could happen 🙂
I’m a big proponent of using blocks for all types of poses and exercises. This reminds me that I need to maintain my creativity, get on the floor, and start using my blocks for many more of my classes. Love to roll on the blocks with my YTU balls.
Oh my goodness, the block in Warrior 2 (with back out arch against the wall – hello legs! When my students have trouble finding their legs in standing poses, I love to use the block and then redo the pose without the prop and see if they can ignite the right muscles – it’s a win almost every time! I also love using the block in bridge to help students awaken their inner thighs, pelvic floor and core. But props are also great for relaxation and stretching, I particularly love a psoas stretch with the block underneath the sacrum, adding the same side arm overhead for a bonus release of the lats. I say YES to props!
Thank you for sharing how to be creative with the props. We are so used to our regular yoga classes. When we become creative we experience more our bodies and become more aware of our anatomy. We learn to listen to our bodies better.
I am loving all the ways Yoga Tune Up is encouraging using the blocks in novel ways for me. All of a sudden the blocks are not seen as a modification but as a way to enhance a pose to the next level. Asymmetrical Uttanasana is one of my favorite stretches! (All of this was typed while balancing a block on my head!)
Yes, blocks and different yoga props are our everything. Once i had to give a beginner class in a studio without blocks and it was really hard to adjust the poses. And with YTU i learned a lot of other ways to use blocks. My favorite is to use block under pelvis in leg stretches, I never really felt my psoas before i tried it!