Blocks, Straps...and Yoga?

In yoga teacher training, we spend a lot of time learning about modifications that we can give students who need more support during class. One thing that most people that are new to yoga don’t realize is that there are modifications for every pose in yoga. If you go to yoga at a gym or to a studio during an open level class, your teacher may not teach modifications because it is a lot harder to teach a class to people of different levels.  This is where blocks and straps come in handy.

A block or a brick is used to bring the floor to you. So, if you are trying to do forward fold and you can not easily rest your hands on the floor or on your shins, grab two blocks (sometimes four) and place a block (or two) under each hand so that you can rest your hands on the blocks instead of the floor.

In forward fold, your knees have a very slight bend in them to protect the back of your knee and your lower back.  Bending over and touching your toes sounds like an easy pose, but for people with tight hamstrings, tight lower back or tight gluteal muscles, this can be near impossible without the help of a block. 

In the picture below, my student is using a block under each hand to “bring the floor to him” and allows him to rest his hands on the blocks because he could not touch the floor.

Another pose in which a block is helpful, is in triangle pose. Triangle pose is one of the top 5 poses that people new to yoga learn, but it is a very complex pose.  Every muscle is your body is active in triangle pose and unfortunately, most people focus on touching the bottom hand to the floor and usually sacrifice form. The most common misalignments that I see, is bending of the front leg, bending of the back leg and rounding of the back.

Notice how my student in the picture below is able to focus on keeping both legs straight, her back straight and both arms straight, by placing her bottom arm on a block.  When she did not have a block under arm, her back would round and her torso would face the floor instead of facing me.

The strap is my second favorite prop to use in yoga. It can be used to “make your arms longer” when your arms can’t reach the target, which is usually another body part. Many people have used a strap or a variation of strap in stretching, even if they have never done yoga. Always remember that it is much better to set your base and your form first then you can work towards advanced poses.

In leg raises, which are done while laying on your back and typical are done in the beginning of class, a strap is essential. The strap allows you to lay completely flat on your back while working your straight leg towards vertical. In this pose, it is more important to keep your top leg straight and your back flat than it is to have your leg be 90 degrees. Lower your top leg towards the floor if you start to bend your knee and always use a strap.


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By Melynda Barnes, M.D. - Co-Founder, Facial Plastic Surgeon, and Yogi