Kick off National Yoga Month with 7 tips for starting and maintaining an at home yoga practice.Read more
This month we are having a block party and you're invited. What you'll need is two-three yoga blocks. I prefer the soft foam ones, traditional size. Any will do. I use a block nearly every practice and I like to think of blocks, just like other props, as a support system; limb-lengthener and attention-getter. Rather, awareness through activation.
Keep it simple.
Don't be shy about using props. (Want more prop practice? Grab a ball!)
Lately, I've been incorporating a block in many of my classes. I pass out a block or two to every student before I start a class, whether they use it or not. Often times it's to get students familiar with their use, to bring an awareness to places within the body, and trying something new.
One of my favorites is teaching a variation of Sun Salutation A for a round or two with a block between the thighs. Start in downward-facing dog, the block is placed mid-thigh, on a setting so that your feet stay hip-width distant. Squeeze the block, while rotating the inner thighs back and wide. The focus is on the legs and it's possible the low back may round a bit. To lengthen your back, bend your knees slightly, sending your tailbone high, and then melt your chest towards the thighs.
Inhale - shift forward into plank pose. Keeping hold of the block and steady. Draw your belly-button in and puff up your back body, so that you core (front and back body, head to tail) is fully engaged and prepped for action.
Exhale - lower chaturanga, low push-up. Staying with the challenge of the block here, your legs and upper body may be shaking a little. Allow it and welcome it as new information, awareness.
Inhale - upward-facing dog, pressing the tops of the feet down, knees and thighs lift. Palms clawing the earth, arms straight. Send your chest forward and up, proud heart here, shoulder heads back. It can be tricky with the block and you may have to adjust the block further back as to not drag on the ground.
Press back into downward-facing dog. For an extra challenge, take yourself back up and through with reverse chaturanga-high plank-downdog. It may feel clunky and quite shaky practicing with a block between your legs for a few times, let it be. We are not going for how it looks, but simply how it feels.
After you've taken yourself through a few rounds of the mini Sun Salute, grab a second block and come to a standing forward bend with a block placed in front of each foot. Take your palms flat to the outer edge of the block. Walk each set of toes up the each block, sending your weight into your heels. If you feel too wobbly, try one foot at a time, or bend your knees. This is an active achilles, calf, and hamstring stretch. Similar to a traditional half-lift stretch, send your chest and crown forward, stay here for a few breaths, switch feet, or come down.
Moving on to a little less active posture, sit in wide-straddle, bend your left leg taking your heel in towards your pelvis as close as you can. Place a block inside your right leg at a height your can rest your right elbow on for a side-body stretch. Today, for me, it's on the tall setting. Set your right elbow down and rest your right temple on your fist. Begin to send your left palm up and over landing softly behind your left ear. Play cool here like a kid from the 80s posing for the camera. Left side of your chest stays open and lifted, try not to cave or hunch, lengthen your back, opening your left side-body. Breathe here for 1-3 minutes and then switch sides.
And finally, a supported shoulder-opener. Begin by standing on your knees and lowering the elbows down onto one block or two. I am using two because my shoulders are quite tight, so I need a little extra space. Keep your hips high and let your chest drop towards the earth, resting your head on a block or between your arms. Stay here for 1-3 minutes and resting down onto your belly, limbs long, palms face-down by your sides.
There are many ways to use a block during class. They're intended to support your practice. As a student and teacher, I will always encourage props like blocks to support and activate parts of the body to bring awareness. Don't be shy to prop yourself. Life is too short to be shy!