It seems that somewhere along the way, yoga props got a bad rap. Let's clarify... blocks and straps are great for Newbies and regulars alike!
Your goal on the mat is to balance your body's effort and tension evenly from head-to-toe, while holding the correct alignment of any posture. We laid out how blocks and straps combat common mistakes of three basic postures below. Follow along, and grab those props to push Beyond Basics next time you hit the studio!
- THE GOAL... is not just to increase the flexibility of your hamstrings and strengthen your ankles, but also to stretch the whole upward-facing side of your body. That means when done correctly, you should feel a stretch from the base of your back leg, reaching up to the tips of your up-reaching fingers and to the crown of your head.
- WHERE WE GENERALLY GO WRONG... is prioritising touching the ground with our bottom arm, versus keeping our upper body long. This often leads to a collapse in the top shoulder as well as the neck. Think length first, not depth!
- A BLOCK HELPS... by giving a third pillar of support for your upper body weight. Pushing off of the block adds stability to twist from the lower spine to the top shoulder. Just remember to keep that hand on the block light... the strength to keep your upper body up should come from your lower obliques.
- THE GOAL... is to first keep your sit bones grounded for a strong foundation, then to twist the stacked vertebrae of your spine from the bottom up. Remember that a lengthened spine allows more space to twist!
- WHERE WE GENERALLY GO WRONG... is neglecting the middle body or bringing the crown of the head out of alignment with your spine. Be wary of twisting only at the neck or slouching!
- A BLOCK HELPS... by supporting your upper body weight back over your hip bones, making it easier to suck the lower belly in and twist from here.
- THE GOAL... is not to touch your toes! A forward fold is as much about increasing lower back flexibility as it is about hamstring flexibility. You want to keep your legs and spine as straight as possible while hingeing forward from the hip.
- WHERE WE GENERALLY GO WRONG... is curving the spine in hopes of bringing our fingers and toes closer.
- A STRAP HELPS... to elongate your spine, and gives the extra support to pull your lengthened spine forward. If your hamstrings are very tight, it helps to keep the feet hip-width distance apart and to keep a slight bend in the knees. At any rate, remember to focus on bringing your belly to your thighs, then slowly hingeing further to bring your chest to your knees, and finally your chin to your shins.