In this second part of my series on restorative yoga poses you will find three uses for a single yoga block. Yoga blocks are great tools for support and softness in poses. They also to allow you to gain access to poses that were otherwise unattainable due to your body architecture. They are invaluable props to have for any level of yoga practitioner. Here are three poses that utilize yoga blocks:
1.) Supported Hipstand: Hipstand is an inversion; a pose where a part of your body is held above your heart. In hipstand the legs are raised straight over the hips, which are supported with the ground, the individual’s hands (hands under pelvis) or a yoga block. The yoga block is placed under the pelvis on the largest, flattest side. The majority of the block is on the glute muscles. Alternatively, the block can be turned on the longest thin side for more height, but this orientation is not ideal for all practitioners. Utilizing a block creates a slight extension of the low back, so if back bending is contraindicated, do not use a block. This pose can be held for 2-5 minutes long or for shorter durations.
2.) Supported Bridge Pose: In supported bridge, the yogi places the block in a similar fashion to supported hipstand. The block can be low (widest thick side on the mat), medium-height as shown here (longest thin side to ground) or even high (smallest thin side to ground). The height should be determined by both the individual’s back bending comfort and ease to come in and out of the pose. This pose is a back bend so it is contraindicated for individuals with spondylolesthesis and spondylosis among other ailments. Spinal extension in backbends can aid in relieving pain in some herniated disc individuals, but it is best to consult with your doctor before doing them. This pose, because it is supported, can be done for shorter (10 breaths) or longer 2 minute) durations.
3.) Supported Supine Spinal Twist: One of the nicest ways to soften a supine spinal twist is by placing a block between the knees or thighs. This arrangement can release some of the tension that can arise in the piriformis and thighs. Individuals requiring some care with their knees might find this treatment of spinal twists gentler than without the block. Supine spinal twists can be held from 10 breaths up to 5 minutes.
In all of these poses the arms may be in a variety of positions: overhead, 90 degree angles, out to T, or resting by the hips. Yoga blocks are terrific tools to help ease your way into yoga poses. They can be purchased on line at many yoga stores and often can be found inexpensively at local sporting good or discount shops.