I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. where the atmosphere is filled with competition. There was competition everywhere I looked and so all I really knew was how to be competitive. Now I’m not a competitive person by nature. I don’t need to win at board games, and I was also the slowest person on my local swim team. But because I wasn’t competitive, I felt like I was trailing far behind all of my peers. So not only was I the slowest person on the swim team, but I had no desire to be fast, and that made me feel different.
As I got older, this didn’t change much. After college I worked in D.C. alongside people who loved the drive, loved the competition. I was working 70 hours a week but getting paid for 40 hours of work, and days would go by when I would forget to eat lunch. And this was normal. I felt like I was swimming against the current just to stay in the race.
When I first started practicing yoga in this environment, I never saw anybody use a prop in a yoga class. I knew that I couldn’t reach the floor (hello tight hamstrings and short arms), but I saw everybody else straining to reach the floor without blocks, so I felt ashamed to ask my teacher for one. Yoga was supposed to teach me how to let go of my ego, and let go of my need to impress other people by being the best, but here I was, ignoring my screaming muscles, dripping sweat, just to compete with the people next to me. I was literally doing the opposite of yoga. I was feeding my ego and ignoring what my body needed in order to fit into this idea of what I thought yoga should look like.
This was ten years ago and I have definitely noticed a shift in yoga studios, but it was still a rare experience to go to a yoga studio where teachers told EVERYBODY to grab a number of props (pre quarantine era of course). Even hearing the words “if you need a block, go get one” doesn’t make me want to use a block. It makes me feel less adequate. It makes me feel like I shouldn’t be there because I need something to help me look like everybody else in the room. That I’m not a good yogi because I can’t move my body the way other people in the room are moving their bodies.
When I moved to the west coast I had a new group of yoga studios to pick from. Luckily I landed in one where the teachers all invited everybody to grab two blocks, a strap, and a bolster, and everybody used them! I immediately felt like using blocks was normal and expected. I would look around the room and see everybody using blocks and straps throughout the whole class. The teachers would say things during class like “this is a great way to use a block” and I would think “Wow, nobody has ever told me that was an option, and this is way better for my body”.
And that’s when I noticed the shift happening. Yoga wasn’t intimidating for me, it was accessible. I started using props as often as I could so that I could feel more comfortable in class, and I began to put aside my ego during class. Before, I would go to class and think “I have to do this pose without blocks so that other people in class will think that I’m really good at yoga because that perception people have of me is important.” Now, I get on my mat, gather my props, and I don’t think about how what I’m doing may appear to anybody else in the room. I’m here to move, to breath, and to connect with myself. So why would I care if other people think my poses look different than theirs?
I have noticed that shift in my life off my mat as well. Yoga is more than just the postures we do in a class (in fact, the postures we do are only a small portion of what yoga is). I began to notice that it was easier for me to ask for help when I needed it. I am slowly beginning to feel less ashamed when I need support from my husband, or my friends, or my family. It’s a hard thing to be vulnerable and to ask for help. It takes practice. I see my yoga practice as a place for me to practice the hard things. Not only is it ok to ask for help the way that it is ok to use a block, but being vulnerable with my loved ones has made my relationships grow so much deeper, the same way that using blocks has improved my posture.
That is how my love of blocks began. Not sold on blocks yet?
Here are some great things to know about blocks in a list:
They bring the ground closer to you
They’re great for using in a chair practice, a standing practice, or a reclined practice
They offer stability in balancing poses
They offer support in restorative poses
They create another way for your body to connect to the ground
They can make a pose more accessible
They are super fun!
You don’t need to have yoga blocks specifically!
So, you’ve decided you love blocks too and want to start using them??
Great! Here are some thoughts and reflections I have compiled in a somewhat organized manner.
If I don’t want to buy blocks, what type of blocks can I find around the house?
You can use anything that is shaped like a brick, more or less. This could be a book, a baby wipes container, a board game box, etc. A few things to keep in mind - it should be flat on the sides, anything that is angled (for example, a tupperware with a lip around the edge) could become wobbly, and therefore unstable, which wouldn’t be helpful in providing us with stability.
If you’re using a book, hardcover books are great for providing a stable surface (it won’t bend as much as a paperback). However, these are heavier, so if you want something to move around easily, maybe go for the paperback.
Play around with a few objects and see which one best supports you and isn’t too heavy.
What type of block should I buy if I want to buy blocks?
The two main options are foam blocks and cork blocks. I like both for different reasons.
Foam blocks are much lighter in weight (avg. 4.6 ounces) and so they are much better for moving around frequently and lifting up and down.
Cork blocks are heavier (ranging from 1-2 pounds), and are good not as soft/flexible.
Overall, both blocks will do the trick, so it comes down to what you and your body need.
So now that you have your yoga blocks of choice ready to go, how are you going to use them?
I have a number of online accessible yoga videos in my video library, always featuring blocks. Every Monday I post three new yoga classes - a seated yoga class, a reclined yoga class, and a standing yoga class. There’s something for everybody! You can sign up here.
I also have a small series on my Instagram that outlines some tips when it comes to using blocks in your own yoga practice.
If you have any questions about practicing yoga with me or using blocks in your practice, send me a note! I love hearing from you!