When we asked members of the Acacia TV private Facebook group (which you too can join when you become a member of Acacia TV! If you aren’t a member – sign up for the free trial) what type of fitness equipment they had at home, I was surprised and happy to hear how many women have yoga blocks.
I love yoga props because they enable you to fit a pose to your body—instead of wrenching your body to fit a pose—and allow you to feel the sensations each pose is designed to create even if you don’t quite have the strength or flexibility to do the full version yet.
I also love yoga props because they can be the source of creativity and a tool used for experimentation.
Here then are five of my favorite ways to use yoga blocks in your home practice that are a little more unexpected than your typical place-it-under-your-tush-when-you-sit-on-the-floor. I hope they inspire you to noodle around with your blocks the next time you roll out your mat!
This backbend is a great way to open the chest, abdomen and fronts of the shoulders. Using blocks under your hands can help you experience more lift and more opening, and also makes the pose easier—particularly if, like me, you have arms on the shorter side.
One note of caution: Don’t go in to this pose cold – do some cat/cow breathing and a downward dog to get your spine a little more supple first.
Half Shoulder Stand
Full shoulder stand is known the queen of all poses for its ability to tone and revitalize the entire body, but it can be tough on the neck, especially if you don’t have a teacher to help you check your alignment. Get the majority of the benefits safely at home by using a block to support you in half shoulder stand.
To do it, lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift your hips and place the block the long way across your sacrum—the triangular bone at the base of the spine—and rest your bottom half on the block. Lift your knees up into the air and then straighten the legs so your toes are above your hips. Keep the back of the neck long on the floor and allow your collarbones to soften and move away from each other so the chest opens. Stay for 10 breaths.
One note of caution: Avoid getting your feet higher than your heart if you’re menstruating—save this for when your cycle is over. (This is a great pose for your premenstrual week, however, as it massages the thyroid gland, which is located in the front of your neck and which secretes hormones that influence your reproductive cycle.)
Bridge pose on a block turns a very active pose into a restorative experience and is a great way to unkink the back of the neck and the lower back.
To do it, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor about six inches away from the buttocks. Press in to your feet to lift your hips, and then slide the block the long way under the sacrum. You can have the block at whichever height feels best to you—I like the tallest setting for this pose but only do what feels good to you. Settle your pelvis down onto the block and keep the knees reaching toward each other (don’t let them splay out). Otherwise, let the rest of your body soften and open.
One note of caution: Be sure to have the block running the long way under your sacrum so you have more stability. Don’t have the block too high (digging into the low back) or too low (across the fleshiest part of the buttocks). You want it on the bone, which is the most stable and most comfortable place for it to be.
Extended Bridge Pose
For this version of bridge, rotate the block so that it is at its lowest height. Then extend your legs and press the entire sole of each foot into the wall. Your chest is in the same position it was in for Half Shoulder Stand and Bridge Pose.
Straightening the legs delivers a nice stretch to the fronts of the hips and the legs.
One note of caution: You will have to fidget a bit to find the right distance so that the bottoms of your feet can be on the wall. If this pose feels too tight in your lower back, place a second block at the wall and rest your heels on top of the block—this will reduce the curve of your spine and keep the opening mainly in your chest and shoulders.
Legs Up the Wall
This perennial restorative yoga favorite feels even better when you place a block under your sacrum. The extra height under your hips makes this pose more of a chest opener.
One note of caution: Again, you want the block directly under your sacrum, so that you can be comfortable and stable here for a few minutes while the body unwinds.