November 13, 2013

Excerpts from an Inflexible Yogi: 3 Reasons I Love Blocks. ~ Erica Singer

Blocks are my best friends.

And I don’t mean this in a weird I-live-alone-and-have-ten-cats kind of way, but really in the most genuine way possible—at least when it comes to yoga.

After all, they are basically my support system when it comes to a practice consumed with bending, twisting and opening. Not to say that yoga is only for the flexible, in fact, if I hear one more person say, “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough,” then it’s gonna get real.

And by real, I mean, I am going to mindfully show you that tight hamstrings do not make you a bad person or a bad yogi for that matter. More importantly, I am going to tell you to use the blocks and here is why:

1. Balance.

You know that feeling you get when you’re flying into the air for Warrior III, and then you must ever so slowly transition into Half Moon?

I know I do.

This brief lapse is one of the most frightening, vulnerable moments for me during a practice. After all, one leg and one hand are somewhere up in the air and my hand doesn’t reach the ground for support. Though my fingertips may touch the mat on a good day, I end up somehow compromising the pose when I make such efforts.

Luckily, my block is always there for me. And it is during these key moments of transition that I can put my entire hand on this rectangular object that offers more stability in my life than any Vitamix ever could.

And the same idea goes for a variety of other poses, particularly my yoga-nemesis-pose, Revolved Triangle, as the block becomes my ultimate savior—my smooth rock amid a thorny position, if you will. So yes, blocks and balance go hand in hand, and I mean literally—if your hand does not touch that mat, you better use a block.

2. Massage.

I may have a personal bias in my strong support for this one because I am of the (probably misguided) belief that I created the “block-massage” that truly enhances my personal pathway to Shavasana.

Naturally, like most of my yoga epiphanies, this innovation occurred during a grueling hip opener, Double Pigeon. There I was sitting in my shameful “Watchasana” position, a term a teacher of mine so eloquently coined to convey the state of yogis comparing themselves to others around the room, with my back straight up as the gap between my hips seemingly increased.

And with Watchasana enabling an unwarranted sense of emotional and physical stress for me, a block-massage came in handy as I began pressing the blocks against the rigid tissue of my hips. So I say, who needs a spa when you have blocks, am I right?

3. Backbends.

I am saving the best for last, because this one makes me really giddy in an awesomely nerdy yoga way, because though I am not flexible, I love back bending.

And thanks to blocks, I can do just that. In fact, these bad boys give me so many different options depending on the angle of the block and its location beneath my vast spinal region; and no, I don’t have an awkwardly long torso—I am simply referring to the human back that consists of the upper area correlating to both the chest and neck, and the lower area linking with the hips. In other words, our body is one, and the use of blocks in my backbends constantly demonstrates this physical union.

Therefore, if my hips are tight, and at this point you probably get the vibe that they are, a block on its lowest length, placed beneath the lowest part of my back, and straightened legs will do the trick as it alleviates hip tension and stretches the lower back. And this also goes for a variety of other back stretches that cater to the upper back as well. Now how sweet is that!

Okay, so we have learned a few things just now beyond the fact that I am a yoga nerd, and that was on the multifaceted nature of the yoga block.

And while you might think I am crazy, mumbling things like, “If she loves yoga blocks so much, then why doesn’t she go marry one,” I say, “Well, maybe I will.” And then after this overwhelmingly fictional situation, I would say that while yoga is a collective practice for anyone, it affects everyone’s bodies on an individual level.

And for inflexible and flexible yogis alike, the blocks cater to this individuality, and personally, enhanced balance, massage and backbends within my routine. With that in mind, I encourage everyone to appreciate these seemingly simple objects, and welcome them into our complex, body-expanding yoga practices.

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Assistant Editor: Jes Wright / Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Pixoto}

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Erica Singer