“Do grab a block or two if you need it.”, I often hear this phrase at the start of class from the yoga teachers at the studio I practice at. Not many people – especially regulars – will grab the blocks. Well, me neither. In retrospect, I attached myself to my ego, thinking that I “don’t need it” or “wouldn’t need it” since I have been practicing for quite long and can comfortably do most poses.
However, this is not at all true. I only recently discovered this in a recent vinyasa flow class I attended. Our teacher made it mandatory for us to start with yoga blocks. When floating to half-moon (Ardha Chandrasana), she made all of us rest our bottom hand lightly on the block and further instructed us to open our hips and chest more and lift our non-standing leg higher. I thought this was going to be a lot easier than a half-moon pose without blocks, but it really proved me wrong. It helped me in the later part of the pose when transitioning to half-moon without blocks, to be conscious of my hand placement, where I placed my body weight, and my alignment.
From this, I learned an important lesson. In both yoga and in our lives, we must be willing and ready to let go of any ego and instead be open to finding foundation and engage in continuous learning with humility. I struggle in many standing or balancing poses and having a block could actually assist me better or help me correct my alignment. It could even expedite my progress in the poses. Overall, blocks are amazing for all levels of yoga, and be used for various functions – balance, alignment, strengthening core, working adductors etc.
Generating space for step throughs: some of us may struggle with stepping through from Downwards Facing Dog to Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana A) or High Lunge (Ashta Chandrasana) because we are unable to create space from the lift of our hips or rounding of the back and engage the iliopsoas and core muscles. Usage of a block can help us train this.
- Place the block at a comfortable height parallel to the front of the mat
- Lift one leg and bend knee towards the chest
- Shift body weight forward
- Stack shoulders over wrist
- Lift the foot of the floating leg up and over the leg
- Squeeze into your chest
- Wrap shoulder blades by pressing down into hands
- Lightly land the foot between your hands
- Stand to warrior 1 or high lunge.
- Advance to the next block height
Balancing and alignment in Half-moon pose: Beginners usually have difficulty touching the floor and even if they manage to, they throw their weight to the bottom hand and fail to focus on opening the hips. This can be gradually improved by first starting with a block. Take note that weight should not be on supporting hand but on the standing leg (microbend). You should eventually aim to touch only the fingertip of the middle finger down towards the floor.
- Support the bottom hand on the block when coming from Trikonasana to Half Moon
- Rotate the upper torso upwards
- When stable, straighten the hands on hips to the ceiling
- Press lower hand lightly to the floor and lift the inner ankle of the standing foot upwards so that the standing hip doesn’t bear deadweight
- Dorsi flexion of the foot of the non-standing leg and lift the leg higher up
- Once comfortable, advance to a lower block height