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You’ve in all probability heard yoga academics discuss “deepening into the pose.” There are lots of totally different approaches as to how to do that, and plenty of of them embody utilizing yoga blocks. However to really perceive what “deepening” means, we have to strategy the phrase holistically. Though you can also make the bodily expression of just about any asana extra bodily difficult, the follow of yoga goes past our bodily our bodies.
Yoga is a follow of deepening our complete expertise, which could be felt in additional methods than our muscular tissues and fascia. Deepening into an expertise means being conscious of and accepting no matter is occurring for you within the second with out figuring out, or complicated your sense of self, with what’s—or shouldn’t be—truly happening.
The best way to “deepen” right into a yoga pose
When you think about “deepening” your bodily follow, first be interested in why you wish to intensify a posture. Then be real looking about your physique’s talents. To take a pose to a brand new depth requires that you simply not power or rush it. You wouldn’t go straight from the shallow finish of a swimming pool to deep-sea diving. Strategy your yoga follow in the identical means.
In case you are nonetheless engaged on reaching your toes in Paschimottanasana (Seated Ahead Bend), straining to succeed in a yoga block in entrance of your toes shouldn’t be in your greatest curiosity. On this occasion, it’s higher to follow deepening your understanding of your personal bodily limitations. Your flexibility is consistently altering and evolving, simply as you’re at all times altering and evolving. Deepening your yoga follow typically means deepening your means to follow endurance and self-control.
As you follow, it may be simple to position judgments or labels on your self, nevertheless it’s important to distinguish your id out of your ideas about your self. You aren’t what exists in your thoughts or your aesthetic efficiency of any yoga pose. As you end up in acquainted poses, take note of your breath and any delicate sensations in your physique. If you end up holding your breath or tensing your physique, it might be an indication that you have to reduce the depth.
In any pose, you’re not solely deepening your stretch, but in addition deepening your expertise.
How utilizing yoga blocks may help you deepen your yoga follow
Once you’re able to take an asana somewhat additional and really feel it in a brand new means, yoga blocks can help you. Beneath are 9 widespread yoga poses and ways in which you need to use blocks as instruments to deepen, or intensify, the bodily stretch you expertise.
As you’re employed into a brand new or deeper or more difficult expression of an asana, proceed to pay attention to your breath and your physique. Bear in mind, your goal with yoga is to make sure the security and the longevity of your follow.
You might discover that not all the following variations meet your present wants. Take what works for you. Hold your thoughts open and your ego off the mat.
1. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)
Block profit: Inserting a block beneath your entrance foot intensifies the stretch within the psoas (hip flexor), hamstrings, and quadriceps.
The best way to: Begin in Low Lunge together with your arms framing your entrance foot. Slide a block on the bottom degree beneath your entrance foot, ensuring it helps your complete foot. Press down by way of your massive toe mound. Interlace your arms on prime of your entrance thigh and press the thigh muscular tissues away out of your hip crease as you draw your decrease entrance ribs towards the backbone. Stack your shoulders over your hips. To deepen the stretch much more, bend your knee deeper. Draw your pubic bone towards your navel to forestall sagging in your decrease again. Breathe. Repeat on the opposite facet.
2. Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose)
Block profit: Taking a block beneath your again thigh lifts your knee, which helps your thigh loosen up and, in flip, permits for deeper hip opening.
The best way to: Begin in Downward Canine and step your proper foot outdoors your proper hand. Place a block on the bottom degree beneath your again thigh. (The precise placement of the block will rely upon what feels comfy for you.) Draw your proper knee towards your proper higher arm. To accentuate the stretch, come onto your forearms, whether or not on the mat or blocks. Enable your chest to launch towards the mat in Lizard Pose. Breathe. Repeat on the opposite facet.
You may tilt the block to match the slope of your again thigh if that’s extra comfy for you.
3. Paschimottanasana (Seated Ahead Bend)
Block profit: Utilizing a yoga block as a relaxation in your entrance foot and reaching for it creates a extra intense hamstring stretch. Holding onto the block additionally strengthens your arms and helps you attain your torso farther away out of your hips.
The best way to: Sit together with your legs prolonged straight in entrance of you and your toes flexed. Place a block in entrance of your toes. Sit tall by way of the backbone and hinge at your hips as you attain your chest towards your toes in Seated Ahead Bend. Once you can not attain any farther, begin to launch your chest towards your thighs and maintain the outer edges of the block together with your arms. Press your heels and thighs into the mat. For a extra intense stretch, gaze towards the block and hold your backbone elongated. For extra of a restorative stretch, spherical by way of your higher, center, and decrease again as you launch your chin towards your chest.
If in case you have tight hip flexors, sit on the sting of a folded blanket.
4. Parsvottanasana (Pyramid or Intense Aspect Stretch)
Block profit: Sliding a block beneath your entrance foot intensifies the stretch alongside the again of your leg.
The best way to: Begin in Pyramid Pose. Flex your entrance foot, bringing your toes towards your shin. Slide a block on the bottom peak beneath the ball of your foot. Convey your fingertips to the mat straight beneath your shoulders. Inhale and raise midway as you press by way of the ball of your entrance foot, contracting your calf muscular tissues. Exhale as you fold ahead once more and flex your entrance toes towards your shin to launch your calf muscular tissues. Repeat on the opposite facet.
5. Uttana Shishosana (Prolonged Pet Pose) with blocks beneath elbows
Block profit: Bringing blocks beneath your elbows creates a deeper opening in your chest and shoulders.
The best way to: Begin in Tabletop with two blocks in entrance of your arms, the lengthy facet of every block operating parallel to the lengthy facet of the mat. Convey your elbows onto the blocks and alter your knees so they’re straight beneath your hips. Convey your arms collectively in prayer and bend your elbows to deliver you thumbs towards your higher again. Enable your chest to launch towards the mat in Pet Pose. Think about you’re drawing your shoulder blades towards your facet physique. Breathe into your chest and again, specializing in creating more room in between your ribs. To accentuate the stretch, press down by way of your elbows as you breathe in and launch as you breathe out.
For added cushioning, drape a folded blanket over the blocks.
6. Uttana Shishosana (Prolonged Pet Pose) with blocks beneath arms
Block profit: Resting your arms on blocks creates a deeper stretch all through your higher physique.
The best way to: Begin in Tabletop with two blocks in entrance of your arms, the lengthy facet of every block operating parallel to the lengthy facet of the mat. Convey your arms onto the blocks and alter your knees so they’re straight beneath your hips. Flip your higher arms out and down towards the mat, stretching your higher again. Enable your chest to launch towards the mat in Pet Pose. As you inhale, press your arms firmly into the blocks, feeling as you’re drawing your armpits in towards one another. As you exhale, cease urgent and launch your chest deeper towards the mat.
7. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Block profit: Supporting your sacrum with a block helps launch the hip flexor and deep stomach muscular tissues in addition to the decrease again. It additionally creates a supported backbend, which could be profoundly restorative to physique and thoughts.
The best way to: Lie in your again together with your knees bent and your toes flat on the mat hip-distance aside in preparation for Bridge Pose. Press down by way of your toes and raise your hips sufficient to slip a block on the bottom degree beneath your sacrum, which is the triangle-shaped bone on the base of your backbone. Straighten your legs, in entrance of you, hip-distance aside or wider, together with your toes falling towards the far corners of the mat. Roll your internal thighs down towards the mat and loosen up by way of your glutes and chest. Breathe deeply into your stomach, low again, and hips. For those who like, bend one knee at a time and draw it in towards your armpit, maintain for five breaths, after which swap sides.
A typical mistake in supported Bridge Pose is situating the block beneath your decrease again somewhat than your sacrum. Make sure that the block shouldn’t be beneath your lumbar vertebrae. You need the bottom of the tailbone to really feel steady and supportive of your complete physique weight. For those who really feel any ache in your again at any time throughout this pose, come out of the pose.
8. Uttanasana (Standing Ahead Bend)
Block profit: Standing on blocks successfully will increase your distance from the mat, which brings a higher stretch to your hamstrings while you attempt to attain your arms to the mat. The variation additionally helps stretch your higher, center, and decrease again.
The best way to: Place two blocks, facet by facet or hip-distance aside, on their lowest degree. Stand on the blocks in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Start to hinge at your hips and fold ahead, bending your knees sufficient to deliver your chest towards your thighs. Relaxation your arms on the mat in entrance of the blocks or enable them to dangle and launch the highest of your head towards the mat in Standing Ahead Bend.
Slowly straighten your legs as you retain your weight evenly distributed between the back and front of your toes. Raise by way of the internal and outer arches of your toes. Stay right here as you’re employed on lengthening by way of your low again and reaching your chest towards your shins. Breathe into your decrease again to open extra deeply by way of your hips.
To follow the alignment of urgent into Handstand in your higher again, play with conserving your palms on the mat on this pose and spherical barely by way of your higher again as you draw your shoulder blades away from each other (shoulder protraction).
9. Prasarita Padottanasana (Large-Legged Standing Ahead Bend)
Block profit: Standing on blocks (just like Uttanasana above) requires higher hamstring flexibility to succeed in your arms to the mat. This additionally creates a deeper stretch within the muscular tissues of your higher, center, and decrease again.
The best way to: Take a block in every hand as you come into Large-Legged Standing Ahead Bend with the again of your legs dealing with a wall. Place a block on its lowest degree between every foot and the wall. Step onto the blocks and convey your heels and the backs of your thighs to the touch the wall. Convey your arms to the mat, both straight in entrance of you or reaching out at an angle.
Hold your weight evenly distributed between the back and front of your toes. Shift your gaze between your thighs in order that your head releases towards the mat. Breathe into your decrease again to open extra deeply by way of the hips. For a extra intense stretch, flip your orientation so your toes face the wall and lean your again towards it.
10. Ardha Bhekasana (Half Frog Pose)
Block profit: Bringing a block beneath the shin of your bent leg creates a deeper stretch by way of your hips and groin muscular tissues. It additionally reduces strain in your knee.
The best way to: Lie in your again with a block on the bottom degree close to your left hip. Draw your proper knee in towards your proper armpit and barely out to the facet, avoiding your rib cage. Take a number of breaths right here. Gently information your proper knee throughout your physique to the left, coming right into a reclining twist. Finally, your knee will make contact with the block; alter the place of the block as wanted. Proceed to roll all the best way to the left, onto your stomach, sliding the block and knee somewhat extra out to the precise in order that they’re perpendicular to your physique.
Relaxation your arms on prime of each other to make a pillow in your brow. Breathe deeply into your decrease again and hips, softening by way of the hip flexors and stomach every time you breathe out.
Encourage rolling the internal thigh of your prolonged left leg down towards the mat and urgent the highest of your left foot onto the mat. For those who really feel any pressure in your proper knee, flex your toes.
To return out, start to roll onto the again, reversing the path you got here in, and gently deliver your proper hip again towards the mat. Repeat on the left facet.
For those who’d like extra cushioning in your knee, drape a blanket over the block.
About our contributor
Jenny Clise has been educating yoga since 2012. Her courses are impressed by many faculties of yoga, and her favourite type of yoga to show is alignment-based flows. She leads retreats all over the world and is the writer of the yoga e-book BLOCKASANAS. To study extra about Jenny, her courses, or upcoming occasions, take a look at her web site JennyClise.com or observe @jennyclise_.