The Under-the-Radar Most Beneficial Yoga Block Uses To Know About

Photo: Getty Images/KarinaUvarova
Whenever I'm in a yoga class, I feel really bad for yoga blocks. They definitely get a bad rap, and there's such a widespread misconception that only the most novice yogis need to rely on yoga blocks for support—when in actuality, even the most advanced yoga practitioners turn to the tools in their practice. And so I reached out to a number of yoga pros to find out all of the yoga block uses worth knowing about and incorporating into your own Vinyasa class.

"We love blocks," gushes Kyle Miller, yogi pro and co-founder of Los Angeles' Love Yoga space. "Yoga blocks are scaffolding and support. Our teachers always say when you are building a cathedral, a structure to house spirit, you use scaffolding. For us, blocks aren't for beginners—they're for informed practitioners who are supporting themselves while they practice. We use them throughout the practice, incorporating them into many poses."

So a major, functional use of yoga blocks is that they're truly for support. "I use yoga blocks to help create more space or to act as a boundary," says Beth Cooke, yogi and instructor at Sky Ting. "I've learned the Katonah yoga lineage that blocks create healthy boundaries in my body, and that gives me more freedom on both the mat and in life. If I become too flexible, I have a harder time feeling stable and grounded in my body."

Besides that, blocks are great because they allow you to cater your yoga practice to whatever your body wants and needs in that moment. "Blocks have so many uses in a yoga practice," says Kelly Clifton Turner, director of education for YogaSix. "The three levels of height [from the blocks] allow for countless ways to customize and support a person's practice. "Many students have a false perception that using a block is somehow a crutch, but in reality, most bodies will benefit tremendously by using them." So, with that in mind, keep scrolling for the yogi pros' fave yoga block uses to try in your own practice.

The most beneficial yoga block uses, according to yogis

Upward-facing dog: I've always said that the "dog" poses in yoga are deceivingly hard—especially upward-facing dog. Miller highly recommends a modified upward-facing dog that incorporates yoga blocks. All you have to do is place both hands on separate blocks, then bend upwards while lying stomach-down on your mat. It helps!

Downward-facing dog: On a related note, you can use yoga blocks for your regular down dog, too. "One of my favorite ways to use two blocks—at the lowest height—is one under each hand for downward-facing dog," says Clifton Turner. "This helps release pressure from the shoulder girdle, which allows me to focus on maximizing the length in my spine. Also, the added length it creates in my arms means that stepping my foot forward for any sort of lunging pose, like crescent or warrior two, means my foot has the space to arrive without me rolling to one side, compromising the shoulder joint."

Pigeon pose: "I like using blocks under the chest and forehead in pigeon—that may be our absolute favorite usage of yoga blocks," says Miller. "You won't believe how deeply you're able to let go."

Supported bridge: Miller says that this yoga block use is "quite heavenly." You can try this by placing a block underneath your hips (you can put it at any height you need), then press into your legs to lift your hips. The yoga block can also be used at its highest height to do a deeper expression of the pose.

Supported fish: The yoga move that expands your chest and throat, but it requires a bending of your neck. To relieve some of that tension, Miller recommends using one yoga block under your head while lying on your back, and another underneath your shoulders so that you can open up without over-stretching.

Seated poses: Sometimes, certain yoga poses can be hard on your joints. This is where yoga blocks can come in, especially in seated poses, according to Clifton Turner. "A block can be used under the sitz bones in seated poses like easy sitting pose to create space for an anterior pelvic tilt, which allows the hip flexors to relax and the knees to melt below the hip line," she says. "Or you can slide a block in between the ankles while sitting in diamond pose as it removes pressure from the ankle and knee joints."

Extending your limbs: On a more general level, yoga blocks can be used to lengthen and stretch more than you can comfortably do on your own. "For example, if you're in a forward fold and your fingers don't comfortably connect to the floor, people can compensate by either rounding their back or taking a deep bend in their knees," says Clifton Turner. "Instead, you can slide one or two blocks underneath your fingertips to bring the ground up, which allows the spine and hamstrings to stay long." She also notes that a common mistake she sees in yoga class is a misalignment in which someone struggles to connect their bottom hand to the floor in something like triangle pose or extended side angle. "There's no prize for touching the floor," she says. "Placing a block on the inside or outside of the front ankle can bring the ground up so that the spine can stay long from the tailbone through the crown, rather than dumping into your waist."

For training: When you're just learning a pose or in training, Clifton Turner recommends using yoga blocks to help with alignment. "Blocks can be used for training purposes by, for example, positioning your block under your sternum to ensure proper alignment while moving from high to low plank, AKA chaturanga," she says. Excuse me while I grab some blocks.

To start getting bendy, try these seated yoga poses for a sequence that is *no* joke. And work through these yoga poses that help to improve your posture

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