Although yoga might seem pretty simple when it comes to equipment (just a mat, right?), there are all sorts of props and accessories you might use in your yoga class. From the strap you use to carry your yoga mat to the blocks you use to modify or advance certain poses, yoga involves an array of props.
Of course, you technically don’t need any props – a yoga mat will do. But while yoga blocks aren’t necessary, they can be helpful. Here’s what you need to know about yoga blocks to help you decide whether they’re worth it or not.
What Is A Yoga Block?
Yoga blocks are rectangular-shaped blocks used as a prop in yoga. These blocks come in varying sizes, shapes, colors, and materials, so you can choose the option that best fits your fitness level, budget, and needs.
What Is The Purpose Of A Yoga Block?
Yoga blocks are essential for their three crucial offerings: accessibility, support, and strength. For example, if your hamstrings are inflexible and tight, you might be unable to reach the floor in a forward fold. A yoga block “raises” the floor, giving you a higher surface to place your hands, making the posture more accessible to yogis of all fitness levels.
Support is another key offering of yoga blocks, as they support your range of motion. For example, let’s say you’re unable to sit upright in a seated cross-legged pose. By adding a yoga block under your sit bones, you raise your hips from the floor, enabling you to straighten your back and relieve the stretch through inflexible muscles.
In addition, yoga blocks aid with strength. They’re an excellent prop to use as you build and hone your strength, allowing you to better your body one step at a time. You can use them in multiple ways to add a challenge to your practice.
For instance, place the block between your hands or knees and attempt to squish the block as you hold a chair pose. Between your hands, the block will help activate your chest and shoulders, but between your knees, the block aids in activating your adductor (inner thigh) muscles.
Do I Need A Yoga Block?
While yoga blocks are helpful, you technically don’t need one. You can easily substitute a yoga block for various household items, like a sturdy box, books, or a folded blanket. Yoga blocks add height to certain poses and an extra stretch in others, so you don’t necessarily need one.
Of course, yoga blocks are the more convenient option. If you purchase one, you won’t have to go on a wild goose chase for a stack of books, a neatly folded blanket, or whenever you need the block. Plus, they’re designed to help you with yoga, so they’re the perfect size for bettering your practice.
How Many Yoga Blocks Do I Need?
Generally, one yoga block is sufficient, especially if you practice yoga occasionally. However, if you practice more frequently, you might benefit from a second block. With two blocks, you can stack them to add more height or have one for each hand, which can be particularly helpful in certain poses.
Of course, it’s entirely doable with one yoga block. So, if you decide to invest in a yoga block, one might be perfectly sufficient.
Yoga Block Alternatives
As mentioned, you don’t necessarily need a yoga block for your yoga practice. You can improvise with various materials you have around your house, like a carefully folded blanket, a sturdy box, or a stack of books. We offer a list of suggestions here.
What Type Of Yoga Block Should I Buy?
Yoga blocks aren’t a one-type-fits-all thing – there are different sizes, shapes, and materials, so you’ll need to choose the option that best fits your needs. Here are a few essential factors to consider as you search for your new yoga block:
The standard yoga block is 4” by 6” by 9,” but other sizes are available. B.K.S. Iyengar, credited for bringing the ancient art of yoga into the modern world, recommended a 9” by 4.5” by 3” yoga block. This block is supposedly the ideal size for yoga, but the standard size is larger than this.
In addition to these sizes, you can find larger and smaller options on the market. The block size doesn’t necessarily relate to your experience level – smaller blocks aren’t necessarily for experienced yogis, and blocks for beginners aren’t necessarily larger.
Generally, larger blocks are better for taller folks or those with large hands, and smaller blocks are ideal for shorter folks or those with smaller hands. You can also find half-sized or smaller blocks for situations where a middle size is ideal.
Most yoga blocks come in a block shape, as the name implies. They’re usually rectangular-shaped, measuring 4” by 6” by 9.” Other sizes are available, but this size is standard for most yoga blocks.
You can find a few different shapes, like curved, rounded, or egg-shaped yoga blocks. These blocks are less common but are ideal for reclining poses and spine support in backbends. For most folks, the standard size and shape are sufficient.
Yoga blocks usually come in three primary materials: foam, cork, and wood:
- Foam: As one of the cheapest and lightest options, it’s no surprise that foam yoga blocks are a standard pick. They’re soft and comfortable, making them an excellent choice for restorative yoga classes. However, they can wear easily, as they’re nowhere near as sturdy or solid as wood or cork.
- Cork: Yoga blocks made from cork are an eco-friendly, lightweight option. They work well for stacking and are more comfortable than wood, but they can absorb sweat and moisture. In addition, they wear out after a while and may crumble after years of use.
- Wood: These yoga blocks are often made from bamboo, maple, pine, birch, poplar, and balsa. They’re often hollow, weighing between 1 ½ and 2 ½ pounds per block. They’re handy for balance and stability, but they’re not ideal for stacking or laying on them, as they’re slippery and uncomfortable.
Each type is suitable in its own right, so you can base your pick on the intended use. For example, foam yoga blocks are a perfect fit for restorative yoga. Cork is an excellent in-between material, as it’s not as hard and uncomfortable as wood but offers better stability and sturdiness than foam. Wood blocks are a good pick for stability poses, as they’re hard and durable.
Here Are Some Good Choices Of Yoga Blocks On Amazon:
How To Use A Yoga Block
Yoga blocks are helpful for numerous poses, from simple postures to complex holds. Here are a few ways to incorporate yoga blocks into your yoga practice:
Most commonly known as the child’s pose, Balasana is an incredibly relaxing and restorative posture. The pose is often used in restorative yoga or as a cool-down in other types of exercise to bring the heart rate back to normal. However, while it can be relaxing, the position of the head can be uncomfortable.
So, to make things more accessible, rest your forehead gently on a yoga block. This will relieve pressure on the neck and head, allowing you to relax into the pose.
Alternatively, deepen the pose by resting an elbow on each block. Fold the hands back toward the shoulders, feeling the stretch through the arms and chest.
The standing forward fold, or Uttanasana, is an excellent stretch for the hamstrings, offering a deep stretch through the backs of your legs. However, for those with tight hamstrings, this pose can be limiting, as you may not be able to fold forward completely. Pushing yourself too hard could lead to an injury, so sticking with the alignment your body is ready for is essential.
To make the pose more accessible, “raise” the floor by positioning a block in front of you and adjusting it to the necessary height. Place your hands on the block instead of the floor, keeping your touch light instead of shifting weight into your hands.
To intensify the pose, stand on two blocks, placing one foot on each block. Fold forward, bringing your chest toward your thighs and your hands to the ground.
This pose, known as the crescent lunge, offers a deep stretch through the hip flexors and quadriceps. While it can feel incredibly opening, it can be challenging for those with stiff or inflexible hip flexors.
So, to simplify the pose, place a foam block under your back knee, as this will lessen the stretch. Alternatively, position a block underneath each hand to support your torso.
To deepen the pose, add a block underneath your forward foot. This will deepen the stretch, allowing you to feel a thorough stretch through the hip flexor of your back leg.
Better known as the bridge pose, this pose is a great way to isolate and strengthen the glutes while stretching the chest, neck, and spine. To simplify this pose with a block, place the block under your hips at the appropriate height. Gently rest your body on the block, which will relieve the stretch and burn through other aspects of the body.
Alternatively, you can squeeze the block between your thighs for an extra challenge, as you’ll need to engage your adductor muscles to hold the block. Or, keep the block under your sacrum and straighten one leg to deepen the pose.
Adho Muhka Svanasana
Also known as the downward-facing dog, this move is standard in many yoga flows. This pose offers a range of benefits, particularly for strengthening the upper body and elongating the spine, but it can be tricky, especially for beginners.
If you’re a beginner, you can place a yoga block under each hand instead of resting them on the floor. This alleviates pressure on the wrists and can simplify the move, making it somewhat easier for newbies.
Conversely, if you want an extra challenge, place the blocks under your feet, ensuring they won’t slide out from under you. The placement under the feet allows you to deepen the pose, creating a deeper stretch throughout the body.
So, Is It Worth It To Buy A Yoga Block?
From our standpoint, purchasing a yoga block is well worth it, regardless of your yoga experience. Beginners can benefit from the modifying perks of a block, whereas experienced yogis may benefit from the advancements a block can provide. Plus, yoga blocks are often cheaper than $25, so they’re not a pricey investment.
But the choice is yours. So, if you want to wait and use yoga block alternatives for a while, that’s entirely okay!