How many times have you heard someone in class say, “I don’t need props” or have you been guilty of saying it yourself? There is definitely a stigma around props. We associate them with beginners. But it’s time to break away from that mentality in order to progress your own practice.
In this post I’m going to show you how I like to use props, specifically a block, in my own practice. The way I most frequently use the block is to hug and squeeze it between the upper thighs.
Follow along with the 7 poses below to see what this prop can do for you.
1. Bridge Pose – To start, lower down on to your back, with your knees bent and soles of feet on the mat. Place a block at the thinnest level between your upper inner thighs. Relax arms down by your legs and walk feet in as close as possible. Set the feet at hip width apart, and also the knees. As you squeeze the block, feel your inner thigh muscles engaging. With your palms facing up, start to push down in to your feet, squeezing the block. Lift the hips, low back and mid back up from the mat. Squeezing in to the block will prevent your knees from opening to the sides here, as they are prone to do. Push in to the big toes and draw the tailbone down. Slowly lower back down, inch by inch, until hips return to the mat.
2. Anchored Bridge – From where you left off, lift the toes and walk your heels out, so that there is only about 6-10 inches between the floor and the back of your knees. Relax the arms down at your sides. Press down in to the heels, squeeze the block and lift your hips just an inch or so. Bend your elbows, so the forearms lift at 90 degrees, and push in to the back of the upper arms. Take 3 deep breaths here before releasing down.
3. Core Work – Keeping the block where it is, bend your knees and lift the feet. Extend your legs up straight to the ceiling. Interlace your fingers behind the back of your head. Flatten your low back down to the floor. Kick up through the balls of your feet, and spread the toes wide. Keep squeezing in to the block. As you inhale, curl the head and shoulders off of the floor. As you exhale, curl the tailbone off of the floor. Inhale, lower the tailbone. Exhale, lower the head and shoulders. Repeat this full cycle 5 times over.
4. Reclined Twist – Lift the feet from the mat, and bend your knees at a 90 degree angle (so that your shins are parallel to the ground). Check that the knees are aligned over the hips. Reach your arms out to the sides. Inhale, staying as you are. Exhale, dropping your knees 45 degrees to the left. If your right shoulder begins to lift from the floor, you have gone too far. Inhale, bringing the knees back to center. Exhale, dropping the knees 45 degrees to the right. Inhale to return to center, then exhale and lower the knees all the way down to the left. Use your left hand as a guide to bring the knees to the floor for a deep twist. After a few breaths here, return to center on an inhale, and drop to the right on your exhale.
5. Chair Pose – Standing at the front of your mat, place the block at its lowest level between your upper inner thighs. Have your feet at hip distance. Bring the hands together at your heart, bend your knees and drop your hips, coming in to chair pose. Inhale the arms up to the sky, exhale bringing the arms over to the right for a little twist. Inhale arms to center, exhale arms to the left. Ensure your knees are staying in line and facing forward. Repeat this action twice to each side. Once the twists are completed, inhale the arms up overhead, then exhale dropping the arms and reaching them back. Start to rock your weight forward in to the balls of your feet. Lift the heels and hover. The more you focus on squeezing the block, the easier this will be to balance. Gently lower your heels to the mat, straighten your legs, and fold forward.
6. Revolved Triangle – Remove the block, placing it so that it is easily accessible at the side of your mat. Come in to downward dog, lifting the right foot up. Step it through to the front of the mat. Bend in to the right knee, drop the hips and lift your hands to the sky, coming in to high lunge. Bring your hands on to the hips, straightening the front leg and bringing back toes in a few inches. Square your hips and shoulders to the front of the mat. Inhale to lift and lengthen the torso. Exhale tipping forward, coming parallel to the floor. Check in with your hips, checking that they’re still square to the front. Grab the block and place it to the left of your right foot. Bring the left palm flat on to the block, underneath the left shoulder. Draw your right shoulder back to initiate the twist to the right, opening the chest, then reach your right hand to the sky. Avoid letting your body weight sink in to the block, instead actively engage your legs. Return the right hand to the hip, and turn back towards the ground.
7. Half Moon – Bend in to the right knee once again, and bring your block forward about a foot (keeping your left hand on top of the block). Transfer your weight in to your right leg, then reach the left leg up and back. Once more initiate the twist by pulling your right shoulder back and lifting the right hand to the sky. Find a deep spinal rotation. Return the right hand to your hip, turn back towards the ground, and release the pose.
Repeat 6 and 7 on the other side.
Want a couple more poses and some vinyasa flows in between? Follow along with the full half hour practice below.
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