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It was a few years ago that I saw the first yoga block. It was a pink EVA foam one. There were also purple, lime green and blue versions of it. At that time I didn’t even know it was for yoga, leaving alone the fact of what they were actually used for in the yoga practice.
Luckily for me, yoga got in my path and I was clever enough to embrace it. Since that moment, I have been learning a lot about the different uses of yoga blocks, the different kinds and what they are good for. At the same time I know that this is not common knowledge and that, unfortunately, not everybody doing yoga knows the difference between yoga blocks uses, materials, etc, nor to identify the most suitable for their needs.
Hopefully, after reading this article you would be in a much better position to make the right choice when buying, or using yoga blocks.
A Brief Intro
Yoga Blocks are a great tool to have amongst your yoga gear. Whether you are just beginning in yoga or have been practicing for years, a block does wonders for your practice.
Yoga blocks are very versatile, you can use them to create space and extension, as well as deepen stretches and get into poses. They can help you find proper alignment and they can be used as extra support during poses or meditation, as well. Use a yoga block to modify positions due to pregnancy, an injury or if you are holding a pose for an extra-long time.
Let’s get started by quickly reviewing the different yoga blocks available to then move on to their different uses.
1- Cork Yoga Blocks
Some of them are made from natural cork, others from synthetic one. They can also be made from recycled natural cork. Your choice in this regard will depend on how environmentally friendly you are
Cork blocks are extremely durable, as they don’t get nicked or lose shape easily. One downside of this material is that it’s porous, so it absorbs sweat and humidity which if not properly taken away (leave the block under the sun or store in a dry place) may lead to appearance of bad smell (due to the growth of some kind of fungi, this is not something everybody will acknowledge).
These blocks feel solid and so trustworthy. They don’t have too much give (more than wood but less than foam) so they will be able to withstand your weight without sinking, thus protecting your wrists, for example. On the other hand, synthetic blocks are less likely to develop fungi due to humidity and sweat. Thus if you live in a very damp place with little or no sun, and/or you sweat heavily, you should consider getting the synthetic version of this block.
The sturdiness of these blocks comes at a price, and that is weight. These blocks are heavy, around 1.1 pounds (0.5 kg) for the slimmest version and almost 2 pounds (0.9 kg) for the widest ones.
Another point in favour of cork blocks is that their colour matches with almost every other colour, so you’ won’t have to worry about picking the right one 😉
If you are looking for a block for your home practice, this is the kind I’d recommend you.
2- Wood or Bamboo Yoga Blocks
Wood blocks are normally the most expensive ones.
These blocks are hard, they don’t have any noticeable give and they just hurt if you don’t place them in the right spot.
When stacked one onto the other, they slip more easily than other kinds of blocks. Seemingly, when wood gets wet due to sweat, it becomes slippery, meaning these blocks will slip out of your hands more easily when sweating. So be careful with them.
A positive aspect of these blocks is that they are the sturdiest and they look beautiful.
Used for the right pose, they are great.
3- Foam blocks
These are normally made of EVA foam, which may be recycled or not. Quality also varies greatly among this kind of blocks.
Foam blocks are the softest, lightest and cheapest of the three types. They have a lot of give which may be a good thing or a bad one depending on the purpose you want them for. If you are placing them on your back to lay your spine onto them, they are great, but if you are placing them under your hands while your body weight lies on them (on plank for example) they may harm your wrists.
They have a decent anti-slipping power, more than wood but less than cork. At MB Zen Sports, we have come up with a new design for our EVA foam blocks, in order to avoid slipping fingers, and making them beautiful and full of personality as well. Check them out here.
They are not as long-lasting as wood or cork, and they get dirty more easily. On the other hand you can clean them with just a damped cloth.
EVA foam blocks are great for travelling, as well as for certain poses, though I would not recommend them for others. Keep reading to learn why.
Getting the Block to Work for You
*Click on the pose name to see an image of the modification with the block/s.
As you grow as a yogi, your body will get more flexible. A yoga block is a great way to add length to your body. For example, if you are in seated forward fold and can already touch your toes, bring the block up against the soles of your feet and this will provide extra length to extend your fingers towards. EVA foam or cork blocks are great for this. I’d avoid wooden ones as they may slip from your fingers if your hands are sweating.
If it is easy for you to touch the ground in standing forward fold you can stand on the block first and then reach towards the ground. This will help you gain more flexibility on your back and back muscles of your legs. Use any type of block for this kind of poses, but be careful with placing too much weight on your joints if you are using EVA foam blocks.
Blocks can also be used to create space in yoga poses. In poses like triangle and revolving triangle you can place the block beneath your hand to create space between the floor and your hand. This will help you get a deeper stretch in triangle and will also help create more space for your chest as you start to twist in revolving triangle. Turn the block varying its height to deepen or soften your pose according to your needs and goals. Sturdier blocks like cork and wooden ones fit better on these poses.
Get into Certain Poses
You can also use the block to get into certain poses if you are just starting out. It is especially helpful getting into crow pose. Stand on the block and bring your big toes to touch with space in between your heels, bring your palms to the ground and bend your knees towards the back of your arms. You are already elevated enough to just lean into your arms. It’s normal to become a bit nervous when attempting poses like this one for the first time, and as a consequence, feeling an increase in perspiration. For this specific example, cork blocks are ideal. They are sturdy enough to withstand your weight and their gripping power is great so your toes do not slip out of it.
Splits and Stands
A block can also help you as you practice splits by placing a block (or two) under your pelvis. To help with forearm stand you can place the block horizontally between your thumbs and forefingers. This helps keep your shoulders and elbows where they need to be in order to do this pose safely. Any kind of block or even a book works great for this.
An important part of yoga is maintaining proper alignment and proper muscle engagement. This prevents injury and helps you get the most out of a pose.
Fostering Muscle Engagement
Bring the block in between your thighs, long ways so that your legs are just about shoulder length apart. Engage your muscles and practice keeping the block in place as you practice poses like mountain pose, downward facing dog, upward facing dog and chair pose. Ideally you would be engaging your muscles like this even without the block. EVA foam and cork blocks are the best for this purpose. Start with the EVA foam one as it’s lighter and move on to cork blocks when you feel strong enough. Always remember to move forward but with ahimsa.
Keeping the Right Alignment
Blocks are also a great way to discover and maintain proper alignment. In half-moon, bring the block between your hand and the floor, this will help you maintain balance so you can rotate your hips open. Pigeon (sometimes known as half pigeon) pose is another great opportunity to utilise the block to find proper alignment. You can either bring the block under your butt or under your chest as you bring it to the mat. In bridge pose bring the block between your knees and squeeze in as you lift your hips. Cork blocks would be the best option for half-moon, just like EVA foam ones are the best option for the other poses.
Blocks are your best friend during a restorative yoga class. By bringing a block under your lower back during bridge pose you can really start to relax and let gravity lengthen your spine. For supported fish, you can bring the block in between your med shoulder blades and let your head and lower back rest on the yoga mat. Waterfall is made extra relaxing by bringing a block underneath your lower back. You can also bring your block to your lower back during savasana. Meditation is also a great time to use your block by making your sits bones more comfortable, you will be able to mediate longer. EVA foam blocks and other special blocks are the most suitable for this kind of restorative poses as well as for meditation.
Wow! We covered a lot in this post. Let me quickly recap for you. Not all blocks are created equal. Between the three main types of blocks (cork, wooden and EVA foam), cork and EVA foam ones are the most practical choices, at least under my humble opinion. With those two kinds under your yoga toolset, you can experience easier, softer or stronger and more difficult poses, depending on your level. Blocks are one of the most versatile props for yoga, as you have seen almost every yogi can benefit from them.
How about you? What is your preferred choice when it comes down to yoga blocks? Don’t be shy, let me know in the comments.
CHECK OUT our beautiful range of yoga blocks: VRIK Cork Block and TULA EVA Foam Blocks.
Whether you get your blocks from our store or somewhere else, please get a couple asap. Your practice, your body, and your mind will thank you for it.