“What are those for?”
I was doing handstand work at my Crossfit box when I positioned 2 cork blocks on their side, next to each other and placed both hands on the other side of them.
I thought everyone knew what you could do with these blocks but apparently not…I’ve taken this prop for granted.
They’re pretty simple by design. They’re just rectangular blocks. What could be confusing?
It’s probably the simplicity in their design that begs the question as "what are they used for?"
But they are so valuable to anyones yoga practise that I would argue if you could only buy one prop, it would probably be these!
Why are they so great?
The great thing about them is they can be used for either getting deeper into stretches or for assisting if you can’t get deep into a stretch.
For beginners, this is essential to train your body in poses where the end range of motion is out reach.
Don’t make the same mistake I did though…
Not all blocks are created equal
When I saw what blocks could do for a yoga session, I immediately went onto Amazon and just bought some blocks that came with a strap too. Seemed like a pretty good deal!
The next session, they sat next to me waiting to be used. They made their debut in a triangle pose but since I couldn’t get my hand to the floor, I turned the block to it’s highest side and placed my hand on top to support my weight.
Unfortunately, my inexperienced head bought foam blocks!
There's me trying to keep myself in position, rather than resting on the bending, collapsing blocks. They couldn’t support my weight, which meant I was using the strength of my trunk to not fall too deep.
So, I learnt the hard way that there are 2 types of blocks...
...there are foam blocks.
...then there are cork blocks.
For sessions that require a bit more stability and your bodyweight will be on them, you want to use cork blocks.
For resting poses where you need to be propped up in, say, a yin style class, foam will be fine (think lying backwards in a reclining hero pose and putting a foam block under your lower back and head).
There are whole host of exercises you can do with blocks and not just stretches. They can add more depth to a push up, for example.
For this little article though, here's 3 of my favourite stretches using cork blocks. Try these and compare how they feel to the same stretch without them.
This is a gorgeously deep stretch in the glute of the top leg.
Pigeon pose is one of the first poses I came across and one I use a lot but there’s only so far you can go. I mean, you can’t lower the floor to increase the depth!
So one of the ways you can achieve this is by taking double pigeon, with the top foot resting beyond the knee and on a block instead.
Sit cross legged but stack your left knee on top of your right foot. Position a block next to your right thigh and rest your left knee on top of the block. You can bend forward in the pose so your forearms are on the floor or rest your arms on your leg.
You should feel this on the outside of your left side, particularly in your glute.
Pay attention to the feeling in your top knee and if it feels comfortable or not. We aren’t looking for a pain or discomfort here so back off if you need to.
Hold for a couple of minutes before swapping sides.
I found this pose not only increases the stretch in your back thigh (which it does…IMMENSELY!) but also helps strengthen and increase range of motion in the front hip flexor.
By positioning the block underneath the front foot, you’re increasing flexion in the front leg, training your body to feel more comfortable with this position.
Place a block in front of you and take a lunge, placing your left foot on the block.
You can scoot your back leg back to increase the stretch in the back thigh. The more your leg goes back, the deeper the front thigh is flexed too.
I find having the top of your back foot down on the floor takes it to another level but play around and see what’s comfortable. If you need to back off here, then curl your toes under.
Keep your torso upright and place your hands on your front thigh for support if needs be. You can stay in this pose for about 3-5 minutes, depending on how it feels.
Seated forward fold
This is really deep stretch and if you can’t grab the back of your feet in this pose, DON'T TRY IT. We don’t want to pull your hamstrings, that’s a terrible injury to have!
What this does is increase the stretch in your hamstrings by increasing the depth in which you’re folding forward.
By placing a block behind your feet and holding onto it, your forward fold has increased by 7cm. Nice!
If I’m holding this pose for a great length of time, say, 4 mins, I’ll hold my feet for half the time and then, once I’m loose, take a block behind the feet to go further.
You’ll feel this predominantly in your hamstrings but you will feel this in your lower back too.
Try them for yourself!
I would say that these are the most important props in my practise. You can find these relatively cheap anywhere but rather than have you search, I use these ones from Mirafit so check them out.
If nothing else, they’re cool to prop your phone up against for an insta shot.