October 27, 2015 | by Masumi Goldman
4 Ways to Challenge & Enhance Your Practice with Yoga Blocks

If you think yoga blocks are just for beginners that can’t touch their toes or for injured yoga practitioners that can’t sit between their heels in hero pose, think again. There are plenty of ways to get creative and use your blocks to deepen your practice in a challenging, fun way. Here are four suggestions:

Twist & Tap
Fire up your core in boat pose by holding a yoga block. Slowly twist from the lower belly to the right, tap the block on the ground to the right, and untwist your torso, coming back to center. Begin to twist to the left, tap the block on the ground to the left, and come back to center. Consider that to be one repetition. Keep your core engaged, your chest lifted, and avoid collapsing into your belly and rounding the back. The shins can remain parallel to the ground throughout the exercise, or you can extend your legs straight for a more intense variation. Work up to 12-15 repetitions.TwistAndTap

Chest & Tricep Opener
Place two yoga blocks on the ground, shoulder width apart. Kneel on the mat, and rest your elbows and triceps on the blocks. Keep your hips stacked over the knees, and begin to sink your chest toward the ground as you bring your hands together in prayer over your head. This pose is very much like puppy pose with the added benefit of a deep tricep stretch. Hold this pose for 5 to 10 breaths, sinking your chest lower with each breath.ChestTricepOpener

Squeeze a Block in Inversions
If your eyes glaze over when you hear your yoga teacher talking about internally rotating the thighs and hips while performing inversions, no need to worry. This exercise will solidify the concept in your mind, and you won’t forget anytime soon. By squeezing a yoga block between your feet as you slowly lift into an inversion, not only will you train your core muscles, but you will also automatically create a slight internal rotation in your legs that will help you stabilize and build strength. Go ahead and try this exercise with any inversion of your choice.HeadstandCollage

Relaxing, Deep Backbend
In my own personal practice, I’ve found this to be the single most effective stretch for the upper back and chest. If you are looking to deepen your backbend practice, it’s so important to stretch in various ways to help create an even backbend through your lower, middle and upper back. Place a block underneath your shoulder blades as you lie on the ground. If you tend to be very tight across the chest and back, start out by placing the block on shortest height. Breathe for 5-10 breaths before turning the block so that it’s resting in its next tallest orientation. Again, breathe for 5-10 breaths, and allow the chest and back to open up bit by bit. Finally, if your flexibility allows, turn the block to its highest orientation, and lie across the block for another 5-10 breaths. Try placing a second block under your head like a pillow for more support.UpperBackOpener

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