One of the most influential yoga teachers of the 20th century, T. Krishnamacharya, once declared, “All asana cannot be mastered by one individual.”
This is because each of us lives in a unique body, and there is a ton of structural variation from person to person, from the length of our muscle fibres, to the distribution and density of our fascia, to the very shape of our bones! To put it bluntly: there are certain shapes that your body may never be able to make, no matter how much you practice, simply because the way your body is structured. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Instead of struggling in shapes that do not serve our incredible, one-of-a-kind bodies, we can use props to help make certain postures more accessible. Read on to learn how to use yoga blocks to find more freedom in your practice!
1. Does sitting cross-legged make you cross? Do your knees cry out in pain when you ask them to kneel? Lifting your hips up with a block could be a game-changer. Try this hack in any seated posture that your body protests against. This is great for tight hips and hamstrings and low back pain.
Try it in Easy Seat (Sukhasana)*pictured , Hero (Virasana)*, Cow Face (Gomukhasana), Staff (Dandasana)
2. Bring the floor to you! Rather than slumping down to meet the ground, lift the ground up to keep the core engaged and length in the torso. If the mountain won't come to Mohammed, Mohammd will go to the mountain, right??
Try it in: Triangle (Trikonasana)*, Lunges!*, Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvottanasana), Half-Lift (Ardhva Uttanasana), Pyramid (Parsvottanasa) It's also great in Child’s Pose (Balasana)* when your forehead doesn't easily reach the floor!.
3. Find balance.
Try it in Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)*, Warrior III (Virabhadhrasana III), Standing Split
4. Find space in Downward Facing Dog. Try downdog with blocks under your hands. This will shift your centre of gravity and take some of the weight out of your wrists. It can also be helpful for tight hamstrings.
Try out plank with blocks under your hands too!
5. Restorative. Probably our favourite way to use blocks. Here, the blocks are used to support the body so that you don't have to apply any effort to stay in the pose. This passive way of practicing allows you to effortlessly experience the energy of shape and thus invites deep, delicious relaxation.
Enjoy: Supported Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana):* slide the block under your sacrum, Supported Fish (Matsyasana):* rest one block on the medium height below your shoulder blades, and support the back of your head with a second block at its tallest height, Reclined Cobbler (Supta Baddha Konasana):* wedge blocks beneath your thighs or knees when you lie with your feet together, knees apart, Legs-up-the-Wall (Viparita Karani): bring a block beneath your sacrum and lift your legs straight up into the air, or swing them up a wall.
If you don't have yoga blocks, you can improvise with a stack of books (wrap them in a towel for more comfort.)
There seems to be this idea in certain yoga circles that using props is “cheating,” or that it means that you can’t do the “full pose.” We vehemently disagree. In fact, we believe that using props is actually indicative of an advanced practice, because it means the practitioner is recognizing and appropriately responding to their body’s current needs. It means they are willing to meet themselves exactly where they are in that moment, rather than gasping, grunting, and struggling toward some idealized version of the posture.
In the Instagram-era of yoga, it’s easy to forget that it’s not actually about what the asana looks like, it’s about how it feels. And yoga with blocks feels great!