Many people who practice yoga dismiss the importance of many yoga accessories, such as blocks, in yoga. While you could technically perform yoga on any flat surface, having a yoga block can make your practice more comfortable and easier. However, these lightweight blocks might seem fragile, making you unsure of what position to use them in.
You can sit and stand on yoga blocks. They make certain poses more accessible, helping to alleviate pressure on your joints, ensuring proper alignment in your body during the pose, and creating length in the pose. Yoga blocks are important for proper yoga practice.
Read on to learn more about sitting and standing on yoga blocks, why they’re necessary, and different types of yoga blocks for you to consider for your practice.
Sitting or Standing on Yoga Blocks in Yoga
Many yoga positions require a yoga block for you to perform them properly. Seated positions require you to sit on hard ground with just your yoga matt as a cushion. Some standing poses incorporate bending towards or kneeling on the ground.
To understand better how yoga blocks can help your yoga flow, think through your last session. Was there every a pose that felt uncomfortable? A stretch may have felt too deep. You may have felt easily tired. You may have even called a session off early, feeling achy from laying on a hard floor.
Yoga blocks can help you feel more comfortable so that your sessions can last longer and provide more benefits. You can incorporate a yoga block into almost any pose. If you sit on the ground, you can almost always sit on the block instead, providing extra cushion through the pose. In standing poses that require stretching or bending, you can use the block to make a stretch shorter or longer. You can even use it to help you stabilize yourself.
How Much Weight Can a Yoga Block Hold?
The amount of weight that a yoga block can hold will depend on the material of the block, how large the block is, and which dimension you place the weight on.
Wooden yoga blocks can hold the most weight, up to several hundred pounds. Depending on the type of wood, you can assume the block can hold up to 600-700 lbs per square inch. A wooden yoga block that is three inches wide by six inches long can hold approximately 10,000 lbs!
Other types of yoga blocks should be sturdy enough to hold your weight. Since each one may be made of different materials, make sure you research the block and read online reviews.
Weight Limitations of Foam Yoga Blocks
Since many yoga block manufacturers don’t list the weight limit of their yoga blocks, you may find it difficult to determine how much weight the block can hold. The Foam Factory breaks down the compression limit of different types of foam. They say that foam is rated through the Indentation Force Deflection (IFD). For example, if a press pushes down on a piece of foam and it compresses 25% of its total thickness under 36 pounds of pressure, then the IFD is 36.
Most foams have an IFD of 8-70. A lower number will be a softer foam while a larger number will be a firm foam. If your yoga block is a soft foam with an IFD of 8, it may only support about 144 lbs across it’s entire 3” x 6” face before compressing 25%.
If you applied that same force to a small area of the block, it might damage the block. A block with an IFD of 70 could support about 1260 lbs across the face, though maybe only half that if you stand on the block and your foot does not take up the whole surface.
Most yogis will recommend being careful with your blocks. Try not to put too much weight on the block in a small area. For example, be sure to lean on it with your palms rather than your fingertips. Or, stand on the block with flat feet rather than on your tiptoes.
Are Yoga Blocks Necessary?
While it may sound that yoga blocks are just for comfort, there are many other poses that you should use a yoga block when performing. The blocks ensure that you have proper alignment in your pose and add length and support to your pose.
When you’re a new yoga practitioner, the yoga blocks can help you practice certain poses that you may not have the proper strength or stability to perform. They can even help more advanced yogis reach harder poses.
Some poses require you to bend over while standing, reaching down to the floor. If you aren’t able to reach for the floor, you can reach for the yoga block instead. In standing forward fold, you should try to bend over to reach the floor with the crown of your head. If you can’t, you can use rest your head on the yoga block.
There is no need to suffer through a pose that you do not have the ability to do “properly.” A slight ache or pain may not feel like a real injury to many. Therefore, you want to force yourself to push through the pain. You may be embarrassed to be out of shape and try to overdo yourself.
However, part of the philosophy of yoga is to better understand yourself and embrace yourself for who you are. By understanding your abilities and learning how to use accessories like a yoga block, you can improve your yoga practice. You may even find yourself making faster gains!
Benefits of Sitting and Standing on Yoga Blocks
Not using yoga blocks to help you in your practice can actually set you back or delay your progress. Performing yoga poses incorrectly due to physical limitations can lead to bad habits in the future. You may not develop strength, flexibility, or the correct balance, inhibiting your progress.
Using yoga blocks can help you keep proper alignment during these poses so that you develop strength in the correct areas. You will also avoid muscle strain.
Holding the yoga block between your knees in bridge pose keeps your knees from caving in or splaying out. When your knees don not align properly, your spine may not stay aligned during the pose.
However, yoga blocks don’t just make your practice easier. They can even add resistance and depth to stretches. Holding the block in certain ways can add resistance, helping you to build additional muscles. Using the block to add more inches to your stretches helps push you further.
Different Types of Yoga Blocks
Yoga blocks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can even be made of different materials to have different qualities. Choosing the right yoga block depends on your own personal preference, how you practice, and your physical abilities. You may need to change your yoga block over time as you advance.
Sizes of Yoga Blocks
You should choose the block height that meets your personal needs. One size does not fit all, since everyone has different bodies with different needs. Even people with the same height may have different arm lengths or different leg lengths. You may even find that you need different heights as you practice and develop strength and flexibility.
The most common size of yoga blocks is 4″ x 6″ x 9″ and 3″ x 6″ x 9″. The size of the block is designed to be easy to handle. Each orientation of the block can be used for different poses. You can even combine multiple yoga blocks for additional height differences.
For example, when you sit in lotus pose, you may need the three-inch height to be comfortable. The person next to you in class may need a four-inch block, while another person may not need one at all.
While in standing forward fold, you may need the nine-inch height to support the crown of your head. You could also choose to reach down to the block on the three-inch height with the palm of your hands.
Yoga Block Shapes
The basic yoga block is a traditional block shape. However, there are other styles of yoga blocks that cater to different uses.
- Wedge Shapes: Yoga blocks with a wedge shape fit better underneath your back when you’re laying down. The tapered edge faces your lower back, while the wider edge can be oriented towards your upper back.
- Bolster Shapes: Bolster shaped yoga blocks may look like foam rollers (and you could probably use it like one, too), but this shape is great to put underneath your spine, or to tuck under your knees when laying down.
- Egg Shapes: Yoga blocks with rounded corners fit the contours of the body more easily. They can fit in the nooks of your knees, elbows, or waist to help support your body without digging into your skin.
- Rounded Tops: The rounded tops of some blocks offer support and stability by maintaining the flat surface on the bottom of the block, while the softened top is more comfortable to lay on.
- Shaped Blocks: Almost like a foam pillow, these blocks have depressions in the lengths to rest the curves of your body, like your neck or waist.
Yoga Block Materials
Yoga blocks also come in different types of materials. The original yoga blocks were cut from different types of wood. You can still buy wooden yoga blocks. They’re the most durable type of block and can hold the most weight. They last a long time. However, they can be expensive and heavy. Wood is also very stiff, which can make them less comfortable to use.
Most modern blocks are made from types of foam. They’re lightweight, affordable, and use to use. They also are more forgiving when you are kneeling, sitting, or laying on them. They’re not as stable when you try to stand on them. They may even collapse under too much weight.
An eco-friendly material is cork. Cork is lightweight and sustainable. They are easy to grip during poses, whether you grab them in your hands or you’re trying to lean on them. However, the cork is highly absorbent, which may not be ideal if you’re sweating during your session. If they dry out, they can also start to crumble over time. They are in between wood and foam regarding firmness and ability to hold weight.
When choosing a yoga block material, consider your preferences for cleaning. Yoga block may be placed on a floor where people walk or sweat. During the course of your practice, you will be touching and moving it with your hands. Blocks that absorb moisture may be offputting. They are also more difficult to sanitize afterward.
Alternatives for Yoga Blocks
If you don’t have a yoga block at home or you worry about if your block will hold enough weight, there are several alternatives that you can use around your home.
Here are some alternative ideas instead of a traditional yoga block:
- Grab an accent pillow, throw pillow, or travel pillow, to support your back in poses that involve laying on the floor.
- Use a bolster pillow or foam roller when you try hero pose or other poses where you sit on the ground.
- In standing poses, try a stack of folded towels or blankets, or even a stack of books.
Poses that Require Yoga Blocks
Sitting positions that require your knees to rise above your hip line can cause strain and tension in your hips. Lotus pose incorporates this position. By sitting on the block, you elevate your hips. Your knees can then drop below the hip line, reducing the pressure on your nerves, muscles, and tendons. If you work a desk job, you may find that you have a weaker core of sciatic nerve pain that accentuates the pain in this position.
Performing hero pose requires you to kneel on your yoga mat, sitting back on your ankles. This pose can put pressure on your feet and ankles, causing you to lose circulation. If can also cause your joints to ache. By sitting on a yoga block instead of back on your legs, you can relieve some of this pressure.
Pose Variations to Try Using Yoga Blocks
Here are a few ideas to try out your yoga blocks. The pose ideas can make your poses more accessible and easier to do while you’re building up your strength and flexibility, or help you push yourself through your flow:
- Downward Facing Dog: To get in this pose, you start in a standing position. Bend to place your hands on the floor. Walk your hands forward so that you make a v-shape with your body. This pose lengthens the muscles through your butt, thighs, and backs of your knees. If you have tight calves, this can cause pain in the backs of your legs. Try a softened version by resting your hands on two blocks instead of the floor.
- Upward Facing Dog: In this one, you start in a downward-facing dog and lower your stomach to the floor. Then, you lift your head and shoulders up, pushing your torso up while your legs and hips stay close to the floor. This can stretch your abs and chest, even causing tightness in the front of your hips and thighs. If you push up on the blocks with your hands instead, it can help minimize the tightness of the stretch.
- Crescent Lunge: In this pose, you lunge forward, screeching the muscles in your hips and thighs. You can create even more stretch if you step your forward most foot on the block, creating additional length in the pose.
- Revolved Triangle: To get into this pose, you start in mountain pose and then twist, reaching one arm down to the ground and the other up to the sky. If you can’t reach the ground, you may reach instead for the yoga block to help you stabilize the pose.
- Reclined Twist: While laying on the floor, you typically would bring your knees together, then twist them to one side of your body while you spread your arms wide, looking the opposite direction. However, you find discomfort with your knees or tightness in your hips, you can place the yoga block between your knees to ease some of the tension.
Use Yoga Blocks for All Your Needs
Yoga blocks are a necessary and rewarding addition to your yoga practice. Especially if you deal with discomfort and pain during a session, adding blocks to your positions will help you improve and advance over time.
Yoga blocks come in a range of shapes, sizes, and densities to allow you to choose one that best fits your needs. While some may not support a lot of weight, there are options that can withstand almost anything. You may need to experiment with different types to find one that fits but don’t be afraid to try something new as your needs change!
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