Sunday, 6 November 2016

Block benefits

A yoga block is essential to your yoga practice whether you are a beginner or a more practiced yogi.  Below are some of the ways your yoga block can benefit your practice.

It brings the ground nearer - in standing forward bends it is better to use your block to bring the ground nearer than to strain and possibly tear a hamstring muscle.  It is also better to have your fingertips on a block than have your hands dangling in mid-air.

Try it in Wide leg standing forward bend - take your feet wide, outside edges parallel, hands to hips.  Inhale lift your chest, squeeze your elbows together behind your back, exhale bring your fingertips to your block (remember a block has 3 levels, on the long edge, on the short edge, or flat) placed on the mat in front of you, lengthen forward. Inhale and if you have no blood pressure issues, on the exhale release the crown of your head down.   To come out of the pose, exhale take your hands to your hips, inhale come up slowly.

It helps with alignment -in Shoulder Bridge there can be a tendency for your knees to splay out.  Squeezing a block between your thighs helps keep the knees pressing forward. 

Try it in Shoulder Bridge - lie with your knees bent, arms by your sides and a block placed between your thighs.  Inhale lift your hips, squeezing the block between your thighs, bend your elbows so your palms are facing, fingers open.  Breathe out and slowly lower.

In Triangle, Side Angle pose and Half Moon Balance using a block can help extend your lower arm.  As a beginner there is a tendency to place weight on your lower arm which can in Triangle pose lead to hyperextension in the knee joint.  A block avoids this until you develop sufficient core strength to hold yourself in the pose without placing weight on the lower hand. A block can also help you get more extension in the spine in Half Moon Balance.

Try it in Triangle Pose
Triangle - stand in the middle of the mat and step your feet a leg length apart, turn the right leg out and the left foot in 45 degrees.  Ladies should align their heel, men should align front heel to back instep.  Bring your hands to your heart then on a breath in stretch your arms wide and lift your chest.  Breathe out and shift your hips to the left and you extend over your right leg, bringing your right hand to rest on your block placed directly under your right shoulder and take your left arm up towards the ceiling.  Gaze is down at the big toe or up at the left thumb.  To come out breathe in, come up, bringing your arms level with your shoulders, breathe out turn your feet to face forward, bring your hands to your heart.  Repeat second side.

For Side Angle pose please see 'Back to basics - Standing poses- Extended Side Angle Pose'- 

For Half Moon Balance bring your hands to your hips and step your feet wide. Exhale bend your right knee. Keep your left hand on your left hip and take your right hand to a block (remember a block has 3 levels).  The block should be positioned 6-12 inches forward of your right little toe and slightly back.  Start to transfer your weight onto your right foot and slowly start to lift your left leg.  Breathe in and raise your left arm.  Your gaze can be straight ahead or up at the left hand.  

To come out of the pose lower the left hand to the left hip and drop the back leg to the mat. Inhale come up, front knee bent, arms to shoulder height, exhale bring your hands to your heart, turn your feet to face forward.  Repeat second side.  You can modify the pose by practicing with your shoulders and hips resting on a wall or you can bring your hand to the seat of the chair.

To prevent creating tension elsewhere in the body - in Keyhole Stretch we can be so eager to hold our shins that we strain our neck and shoulders.  A block placed under your head can help prevent this. 

Try it in Keyhole Stretch - lie with your knees bent, block under your head and bring your left foot onto your right thigh with your foot flexed.  The nearer your foot is to your groin, the more intense this pose will be.  Reach through the gap made by your left leg and hold the back of your right thigh or right shin.  You could also use a belt. Hold and breathe then breathe out to release the pose from your body.  

To fill in any gaps until you are more flexible - if you cannot get your hips to the mat in Pigeon Pose, blocks will support you in the pose until your hips open up.  Similarly in Cobbler's Pose you can place blocks under your outer thighs - this will also help protect your SI joint.  Please see Protect your SI joint-  The same goes for reclined twists - a block or two will support your knees if they do not reach the floor.

Try it in Pigeon Pose -   from all fours or Downward Facing Dog bring your right knee to your right wrist and lower your hips, sliding your left leg back. Take your right foot towards  the left side of the mat.  Tucking the toes of your back foot and pressing into your toes can help square the hips.  Place a block under your left thigh and another under your right buttock.   Repeat second side.

To tilt your pelvis forward -  in seated forward a block can help tilt your pelvis forward and help avoid rounding in the lower back.

Try it in seated forward bend - sit on your block with your legs outstretched, and a straight spine.  Breathe in, raise you arms breathe out hinge forward from the groin taking hold of your feet or a yoga belt placed around the balls of your feet.  With each inhale lift a little and lengthen, with each exhale release more deeply into the pose.

To give you support -  two blocks can give you support in a variation of legs up the wall without using a wall. 

Try it - lie with your knees bent.  Inhale lift your hips, place the blocks under your hips then breathe out to lower your hips onto the block.  Breathe in, lift your hips and draw the top block halfway towards your head then lift your legs.  The top block will tip providing a support for your lower back.


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