My name is Diane and I’ve been a student of Cathy’s for about three years. When I practice Yoga, I love to use blocks. I consider them to be extensions of my arms.
Downward Facing Dog is one of the poses that can be hard to attain. If you have trouble getting into and maintaining Downward Facing Dog, blocks can help. You will feel your limbs stretching, abdomen going “hollow”, and mind calming down. If you only have time for one pose, Downward Facing Dog is “the one”.
Downward Facing Dog using blocks
Props = 3 blocks and a wall.
Place 2 blocks in the lowest position, against the wall. Place the third block either on its side or straight up in the center of the two and slightly more toward your feet. Think of arranging three platforms; two for hands and one for head.
Kneel down, place your hands on the blocks against the wall and press your hips up. You may need to walk your feet back a little (approx 4’ from your hands).
Keep your knees bent and heels lifted. Stretch your arms fully. With intention stretch each leg from heel to buttock and contract the thigh muscle on the front of the leg feeling it rise into the hip joint. Raise your buttocks, stretch your chest and push the sternum slightly forward to open the heart. Exhale and rest your head on the third block.
Press hands down, extend arms fully, stretch the area between your shoulder blades. To take some pressure off the wrists make sure to press firmly between your thumb and first finger.
Beginners hold this position for a few seconds. Gradually increase until you can hold for 30 seconds or more with your goal to hold the position with a calm mind for one full minute.
Bharadvajasana – Torso Stretch Pose
This pose was always very hard for me until I discovered that the blocks can assist in sitting up tall. My tendency was to roll my hip and try to twist from the waist just to “get into” the pose. The blanket will raise the hips and with blocks to press on, you can focus on a twist that extends from the hip region up to the top of the spine. Remember, we are working/practicing yoga to improve, not to jam ourselves up.
Props – one blanket and two blocks
Start in Dandasana. Sit on a blanket so that your hips are slightly elevated. Bring your knees in (bend them) and place your feet next to your left hip. Place the left ankle on top of the arch of your right foot and lower your knees to the floor.
Place a block on the side of your hip and the other block in front of your thigh/knee area. Begin to straighten your spine as you breathe in. Exhale as you twist. Press down on the blocks, straighten your arms, and keep your chin level. Try to hold the twist for 30 seconds. Release the pose and try the other side.
The first time I saw Hero Pose, all I could think was “no way” are my knees going to allow me to do that. If stiff knees or ankles are keeping you from getting into Hero Posture try some blocks and see if you can begin to experience the benefits. Note: the first time you do this, you may need 2 blocks.
Props = 1 block, and 1 folded blanket or thick towel. Start in child’s pose, lift your torso upright and place the block under your sit bones. Place the folded blanket under your shins (at the ankles) in front of the block. Knees should be together, shins slightly out to the sides. Make sure your feet point back and toes touch the ground.
Stretch your chest outward, shoulder blades down. Using your breath, squeeze the kidney area and draw it into your body. Place your palms on your knees or thighs. Look straight ahead, close your eyes. Remain in the pose, breathing deeply and steadily for 30 seconds with a goal of 60 seconds.
Props – a wall and a block
Warrior II is strengthening pose. Use a block to test if you are bending your knee enough to get your thigh bone parallel to the floor. Use the wall (press wall with your hand) to make sure your spine is staying erect and tall. I started practicing Warrior II using a chair until I was able to get my thigh and calf to create a right angle with the thigh bone parallel to the floor. As you practice this pose, your hips and groin will begin to become stronger.