“I can’t reach my toes,” said no yogi ever since he discovered yoga blocks.
Yoga blocks are excellent props to use for your yoga practice. This article will explain what yoga blocks are made of, their benefits and uses, and my top three recommended yoga blocks.
Yoga Blocks and Their History
Yoga blocks, or as some would call yoga bricks, are props in yoga. B.K.S. Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar Yoga, was the first to introduce yoga blocks in the 1970s. Since then, yogis who practice other styles of yoga aside from Iyengar started using yoga blocks to support their practice.
What Are the Different Uses and Benefits of Yoga Blocks?
Yoga blocks are very versatile. The benefits you get from a yoga block depend on how you use them. Here are the benefits that you can get from using a yoga block.
Support Your Range of Motion
The primary use of a yoga block is to support your range of motion. Poses such as Standing Forward Fold or Uttasana require you to fold from your hips to bend forward, grab your ankles, or bring your hands on the floor. If you have a limited range of motion in your hamstrings, you will most likely not bend forward and reach the floor.
In this case, using a yoga block is helpful. You can bring the ground close to you by using a yoga block and resting your hands or tips of your fingers there.
Support in Engaging Your Muscles
In many styles of yoga, except for Yin, you need to engage your muscles. Unfortunately, though, maybe because of limited mind and body awareness, we don’t engage our muscles but instead, rely on the hypermobility of our joints. If you do this, you are more at risk of injuries.
To become aware that you need to engage your muscles, using yoga blocks in your practice is helpful. For example, in Bridge Pose, you can squeeze a block in between your thighs. By doing this, you will engage your gluteal muscles instead of overarching your low back and hyperextending your hips.
Make Yoga Poses More Accessible
Yoga blocks help in making yoga poses accessible to people with a limited range of motion and strength. It can also help yogis whose skeletal structure limits their movements.
For example, this variation of a side angle in the photo shows if your leg is longer than your arm, your hand won’t likely reach the floor. So instead, you can use a yoga block in front of your foot so your hand can reach the “ground”.
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Sitting down for even just a few minutes of meditation may not be possible or may be uncomfortable for some people. Because most seated meditation postures require a high range of motion in the hips and a strong core to keep the back straight, sitting on a yoga block can help make meditation more comfortable.
When hips are higher than your knees, it’s easier to keep the back straight. Putting blocks under your knees also makes crossing your legs more comfortable for those with tighter hips.
How Many Yoga Blocks Do You Need?
You should get at least two blocks for personal use—one for the right side and one for the left. If you like using blocks in restorative yoga poses, you may need more.
What Are Yoga Blocks Made of?
When B.K.S. Iyengar first introduced yoga blocks to his students, they were handcrafted and made of 100% wood. Today, yoga blocks are made of other materials. Here they are:
Cork yoga blocks come from the bark of a cork oak tree. It’s a natural material, making it one of the top choices in making yoga props. On top of that, cork trees continue to grow even after you’ve cut them. So, they are eco-friendly.
Yoga blocks made of cork are very durable and don’t lose their shape. In addition, they are non-slip because of the natural friction that cork has. Cork yoga blocks are also cheap.
The downside of cork yoga blocks though, is that they are porous and absorb water. While cork is naturally impermeable, it can absorb sweat and flake.
Wooden yoga blocks are a classic. They are durable, very sturdy, and will stand the test of time. Wooden yoga blocks are also eco-friendly and non-slip. In addition, they are easy to clean.
Wooden yoga blocks are either made of bamboo, birch, maple, or pine. They can be pretty heavy and uncomfortable to use. Instead, you can find wooden yoga blocks that are hollow in the middle to make them lightweight.
When doing Restorative Yoga or Yin Yoga, it’s best not to use wooden blocks as they are hard on the spine and skin. Furthermore, be careful when using one at a yoga studio with wooden floors as you may slip.
Foam yoga blocks are typically made with EVA foam. Some of these foam yoga blocks are biodegradable and eco-friendly, while others are not. In addition, they come in different colors and are cheap.
Yoga blocks made of foam are comfortable to use under the spine. However, they are not sturdy enough to carry your weight. Using them to place your blocks during arm balances is not safe because they are soft.
What Size of Yoga Blocks Do I Need?
Yoga blocks usually come in three different sizes. Sometimes, you will also see what they call the superblock, but it is super rare.
The typical size of a yoga block is 3″ x 6″ x 9″. Most yoga practitioners use this size for any style of yoga.
Then, the other size is the 4-inch one. It measures 4″ x 6″ x 9″. Most wooden blocks come in this size. You can also use this size for any yoga style and purpose.
The last size is the 5-inch block. You will not find this size of yoga block in most yoga studios or gyms.
The perfect size of your yoga block depends on how flexible and tall you are. If you are more than 6 feet and have limited flexibility, get a 5-inch block. If you are less than 6 feet with average flexibility, get the 4-inch block.
When to Use Yoga Blocks
Yoga blocks are very versatile. You can use them in almost any yoga pose. Here’s when you should use a yoga block or two in your yoga practice.
When You Can’t Reach Your Toes
Many people tell me that I am a yoga teacher who can’t do yoga because they can’t reach their toes (as if that’s the only sign of flexibility). If you are one of these people, don’t worry. You don’t need to reach your toes. You can just reach the block in forward folds. See below.
When You Can’t Reach the Ground
If you can’t reach the ground when doing yoga asanas, bring the ground close to you by using yoga blocks.
For example, you can’t bring the fingers or palms down on the mat in Triangle Pose or Half Moon Pose. Instead, you can put a block to where your hands should rest. This way, you’re doing the pose without compromising your alignment.
When You Want to Make Poses Easier
Yoga poses can be easy or difficult depending on the yogi’s range of motion, level of strength, experience, and anatomy. If you find yoga asanas to be challenging, yoga blocks can make them more manageable. For example, you can make Balasana or Child’s Pose more accessible by resting your head and buttocks on a block.
When You Want to Make Poses Difficult
Increasing muscle endurance and strength needs progressive overload. If you have been practicing yoga regularly, you will realize some poses are now more accessible. That’s because you’ve increased your strength. If you want to continue improving your strength, you have to put more stress on your muscles.
For example, you can squeeze a block in between your forearms in Mountain Pose.
You can also squeeze a block in between your thighs when doing Bridge Pose and Wheel Pose.
How to Clean Yoga Blocks
Sanitizing your yoga props, including your blocks, is very important. It can get sweaty and moist as you use it in yoga. How to clean your blocks depends on the type of blocks you have.
EVA Foam Blocks
- Mix a few drops of mild liquid detergent and water.
- Dip a clean piece of cloth in the mixture and remove excess water.
- Run the fabric on the block.
Note: This will only remove the superficial dirt. If you think your yoga blocks need a thorough washing, put them in the washing machine.
Cork and Wooden Blocks
- Wet a clean piece of cloth with water. Remove excess water.
- Rub your cork and wooden yoga blocks with your fabric.
Top 3 Best Yoga Blocks
I have used many yoga blocks in my practice at home or the studio. I have also bought yoga blocks for my students. Here are the top three yoga blocks that I’m sure will help you in your practice.
Gaiam Yoga Block
Gaiam yoga blocks are great for all sorts of practice—meditation, active and passive yoga asanas, and Pilates. These blocks are very versatile. They are soft enough to use restorative yoga poses and durable and sturdy to support you in Crow Pose, as well as other arm balancing poses. They are also non-slip.
Gaiam yoga blocks come in many different colors and styles. There are tri-color and Navajo prints. They are also latex-free, so you don’t have to worry if you’re allergic to latex. The size is perfect for all yogis 9″ W x 6″ H x 4″ D and only weighs 4.6 oz. So, you can bring them anywhere without hurting your shoulders and back.
Hugger Mugger Cork Yoga Block
T think the Hugger Mugger Cork Yoga Block is the best overall yoga block. As a petite yogi with small hands, this one’s size, 9″ x 5.5″ x 3.5″, is perfect. I can grip them easily when doing Titibasana or Firefly Pose. And yes, they are sturdy enough to carry your weight in arm balances.
Hugger Mugger Cork Yoga Block is dense and durable but lightweight. Since it’s made of cork, it’s eco-friendly. It comes at $21.95 apiece but is worth every penny. This yoga block is sure to please all levels of yogis practicing all styles of yoga.
Manduka Recycled Foam Yoga Block
This Manduka Yoga block is made from recycled EVA foam, which is why I love it. Like other yoga props from Manduka, it is firm and provides excellent grip. Some yogis who have used this say it’s too firm.
You won’t even know it’s made of foam. You will feel stable when using this yoga block for arm balances and relaxation in passive yoga asanas.
Using yoga blocks can help you grow in your practice. With the help of these yoga blocks, no asana will be too out of reach, too challenging, or too easy.