Happy Friday!! It’s Fitness Friday here at Pancake Warriors – today I thought we would mix it up and talk yoga on the blog. I started doing yoga about 4 years ago. I would go to the Sunday afternoon class at my gym after an hour of sweaty Zumba. I would fall out of every pose, everything felt uncomfortable and I was constantly questioning my form.
Then I was introduced to the yoga block. It became my best friend. I was so tight that reaching the floor was difficult for me, I needed something to “bring the floor up to me”. I gradually was able to work through my mobility issues and no longer need the block. There are some days in yoga when my teacher says “Everyone get a block” and so I oblige and I’ll tell you what, I can sure get much deeper into a pose when the ground is that much closer to me!!
I also have a few yoga moves where the block is essential! Fish, waterfall, and bridge moves. I tend to flair out my knees in bridge and wheel , and having the block between my legs really helps me focus on keeping my legs “turned on” and I don’t have to worry about my knees flaring out and causing injury.
Another favorite place for me to use a yoga block is in chair pose. I think this was the hardest move in yoga for me to perfect my pose. I do so many squats in the gym, I figured I’d be a natural. But chair is so different than a squat. Your legs are closer, you have to keep your booty tucked under, and arms go all the way up. I notice when I use a block, it’s easier for me to get down just a few more inches, because I’m not worried about my knees and it gives me something to squeeze onto when we rotate in chair.
The one move that made me feel like a bad ass ninja was crow pose. Learning to do this move took a lot of practice and a bit of courage. Starting perched on the yoga block is a great way to practice this move. Standing on the block brings the floor up just a bit, getting you a little closer to the angle you want to be at to get into crow. Practice with a pillow in front of your face and no expectations. Also I implore you – bust this move out during a party – especially after people have been drinking – you will get attention 🙂
Zen Active Yoga Block
Needless to say, I would highly recommend adding a yoga block to your home gym if you haven’t already. I received a cork yoga block from Zen Active to review and I love it. The block is made of cork, which is a sustainable resource. It’s also a little bit heavier than most foam blocks. I really appreciate this, as the cork block tends to stay in place better and I didn’t feel like I might break the block standing on it to get into pigeon pose – the things I worry about! Another benefit of a cork block is that it doesn’t slip and slide around on the floor. Often when I’m using a block, it’s off the mat helping me to rotate further into a pose. I don’t know about you, but my studio is often humid and the floors are slick. The Zen Active cork block I used didn’t slip and slide around at all. This yoga block would be ideal for users that need the stability and who are a bit wobbly in poses.
I am like Alton Brown (Food Network Anyone?) – I don’t think you should buy things that only have 1 purpose. With that in mind, I figured out a way to incorporate the Zen Active cork block into my workouts. Since it has a good grip I was able to perform moves like crunchy frog pass without worrying about dropping the block because my hands got slippery!
Crunchy Frog Block Pass – Start seated holding the block between your knees, raise legs to 90 degree angle, and lean back from your hips to about 45 degrees with your back (you will be in V-sit) position. Extend legs out straight, squeezing your knees tightly onto the block, hands on the floor for support or hands up at your chest (advanced). Now crunch in bringing your knees into the chest, and grab the yoga block with one hand. Extend legs out without the block between the knees. Crunch in and replace the block, extend legs. Next time you crunch in, use the other hand to grab the block. I like this move because it gave me something to focus on instead of how many more crunchy frogs I had left to do!
Straight Leg Alternating Toe Touches – Lie on back with legs extended straight up, feet flexed, block resting on the top of the feet. Alternate reaching for the opposite pinky toe with each arm. The yoga block is great for this move because it keeps you from bending your legs, which helps press your lower back down into the mat, avoiding injury.
Straight Leg Sit Up with V-sit – lie on back, extend legs straight out in front of you. Hold yoga block in both hands long ways, keeping your arms right next to your ears through first half of this exercise. Holding arms next to ears, sit-up (using the core) keeping your legs pressed into the ground. Extend arms out in front so that the block is reaching for the feet. Start raising back until you are sitting up straight, block is now at chest level, arms straight. Now V-up with your feet, reaching the block for the toes. Slowly lower back down to start. Using the yoga block during this exercise is great, as it helps keep your arms from helping you “sit-up” during the move.
Boat – This is the most humbling yoga move I know. It kills me every time. Start with feet on floor back flat and abs engaged. Raise legs and bend at the knees so that the block will rest on legs, while leaning back into a 45 degree angle at the torso. Arms are extended forward (see picture). Hold this move as long as possible (up to one minute).
Sit-ups With Feet on Block –Lie on back with knees bent, feet resting on the block. Slowly sit up, keeping the arms either at chest or behind the head. Be careful to use your core and not momentum to raise up. Pause at top and slowly lower down. Having your feet on the yoga block adds variety to a regular sit up!
Russian Twists -Start in the same position as boat pose or you can keep your feet on the ground. Hold the yoga block in both hands straight ahead of you. Slowly twist to one side, touching the ground with the block. Switch to the other side. Move with a purpose, don’t rush through this move. The block is great because it gives you something to touch the ground with which helps ensure you are working the obliques (and keeps you from cheating).
Leg Lifts, Block Between Feet -Lie on back with legs extended straight up, feet flexed, block between feet (long ways). Arms are straight out next to body. Press arms down, and slowly lower the legs until hovering over the ground. Slowly raise legs back up to starting position.
To make this a workout, do each move for 30 seconds to 1 minute, keeping breaks to a minimum. Feel free to add the bonus moves or do this 2 times through for a real core workout!
Optional Bonus Round:
Heels to the heavens, block between feet – Lie on back with legs extended straight up, feet flexed, block between feet (long ways). Arms are straight out next to body. Press arms down, and lift with the hips, raising the feet up in the air. Don’t rock or swing just life from the hips.
Crunches With Knees Up at 90 Degrees – lie on back and raise your legs and your knees so they are at 90 degrees. Place block on the shins. Slowly raise your upper body by crunching your shoulders toward your knees, using the stomach (not the neck!!). Slowly lower down. Repeat. The block is great here because it keeps you from cheating during this move. Have the block on the shins really keeps you from moving your legs from the 90 degree bend. This will really help engage the core!
What about you?
- Do you have a yoga pose that makes you feel bad ass?
- Have you ever used a yoga block outside of the studio? If so, what for?
- What is your favorite pose to use a block with?