So what if you can’t touch your toes? Not everyone is bendy. But if a lack of flexibility has stopped you from enjoying a full yoga practice, there’s good news. You can use two or more brick-shaped, foam props called yoga blocks to help you find satisfaction in many poses that were once out of your reach.
Yoga without proper alignment is not yoga at all. It’s just all sorts of bad pain. If you’ve ever been in Triangle pose and wondered what that discomfort in your shin was, it was probably your hand pushing your tibia out of whack. This is exactly where a yoga block will come in handy. When your hand or hands can’t reach the floor comfortably in a side-stretching or forward-bending pose, and you’re gripping your legs to pull you deeper into a posture you’re not ready for, you can use one or two yoga blocks to assist you. Stand the blocks on end, on their sides or flat on the floor in poses like Extended Side Angle, Triangle and Revolved Triangle, and Half-Moon.
Two of the most widely used yoga props -- straps and blocks -- are employed frequently in back-bending poses. You can lasso your feet with a strap in Bow pose, or grab a couple of blocks for that Camel pose you’ve always shied away from. The intense stretch on the fronts of your thighs and almost primeval vulnerability of having your head tipped back so that your throat is exposed makes Camel one of the more difficult poses to find comfort in. However, by placing two blocks on end to either side of your feet, you can control the intensity of this pose. Blocks braced against a wall, shoulder-width apart, are also useful when learning Wheel pose. And squeezing one between your knees while in Bridge pose will train you to keep your legs in the proper position.
If you have even the tiniest hint of knees problems or if you’re new to yoga and don’t want to have issues with your knees, sit on a yoga block in poses such as Cow Face, Hero and the relatively mild Cobbler. Just by elevating your behind a couple of inches off the floor can make the difference between finding the sweet spot in a pose or yelping in pain when something in your knee pops from the unnatural angle in which it was put.
Don’t look around the room to see what everyone else is doing. It’s your body, and you have the right to protect it any way you can. Use your blocks creatively in any pose that requires you to stretch past your comfort zone. Blocks take the pressure off your tendons, ligaments and limbs and allow you to revel in what you can do, rather than be bummed about what you can’t. You'll get there when you're ready.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.