Sunday, January 14, 2007

Un-box the Block

Last week I discussed a variety of ways to make poses more supported using the wall, a chair or your belt, so you could hold them longer. Your block is a versatile tool, also, and you can use it for as a support as well as a prop for helping align or adjust a pose. While there are a variety things around the house you could use as a yoga blanket or belt (for a long time my belt came off my bathrobe), a 3” or 4” foam block is what it is and you should try and track one down. I tried to use thick books for awhile and mostly managed to break their spines. Check Nu-Source for affordable yoga supplies.

You can use the block against the wall in a number of poses, so that you have a cushion between your body and the solidity of the wall. You can do Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) with the block between your shin and the wall (see Jan 9) to establish a crisp right angle in the shin and thigh of the bent leg. If you hold the block between the thumbs and index fingers, you can press it against the wall in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog Pose) to help keep the arms stable so you can really press the back thighs away and lengthen the spine.


Your block can help you keep the edge of your feet parallel (Tadasana-Mountain Pose, Dandasana-Staff Pose), or to keep the edge of a single foot perpendicular to the floor (Janusirsasana-Head-to-Knee Pose, Padangusthasana Hand-to-Big Toe Pose). Either gently press the block between both feet to keep them parallel, or rest the block against the inside edge of the foot when the heel is on the floor as a gentle reminder. Press the palms of your hands into the sides of the block in Hastasana (Overhead Arm Stretch) to help you align your upper arms and elbows.

A little lift

The block can also add 3” or 4” of length to your arms. If you can’t reach the floor in Uttansana (Intense Forward Bend), press your fingertips into the block so you can still support the torso and lengthen the spine. You can use the block in Parsvakonasana (Lateral Angle Pose) and Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose) to help you reach the floor; the few extra inches of the block will help you keep the spine aligned so you don’t collapse at the chest as you reach down. If your hips can’t settle between your heels in Virasana (Hero Pose), you can place the block under the sit bones. You can even use the block under your head in Down Dog or Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Angle Forward Bend) as you bend forward so that the inversion is supported; the poses are more restful this way, so you can hold them longer.

Your block is an indispensable tool…you may even want to have two. I promise you will always find a use for them in yoga and you will protect your library as well! ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved.
(P.S. Does anywhere beside Washington DC use the term “block the box” for entering an intersection in your car but not being able to pull on through, thereby blocking oncoming traffic?)


Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda, I thought I read somewhere that PVC (polyvinyl chloride - what nusource makes their mats from I think) is nasty for the environment and people too. What's up with that?

Jim (who really likes your blog and tries to do 5 minutes a day, but lately he's been feeling crappy.)

Brenda Plakans said...

Sadly, you've noticed the dirty secret of yoga mats. For the most part, they are made from PVC which is not a particularly eco-friendly material. You can search around on the web for "all natural" mats that are made with jute and rubber. OR, you don't really need a mat if you have a clean floor and a bit of carpet...just do your standing poses on the floor (I don't have any trouble with my feet sliding) and sit on the cushioning that the rug provides.

I'm pretty sure Pantanjali didn't have a plastic yoga mat...

Good luck with the 5 minutes!