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Challenge Your Yoga Practice With These 5 Yoga Block Exercises

Yoga blocks are a simple and inexpensive prop often overlooked by yogis who want to challenge their practice. Many don’t know any good challenging yoga block exercises to incorporate into their practice.

Unfortunately, blocks are often thought of as tools just for beginners. Although they are great props to help support beginners, their usefulness doesn’t end there.

If you’re looking to challenge and shake up your asana practice, it’s time to reintroduce blocks to your practice.
 

 
 

How to Use Yoga Block Exercises to Challenge Your Practice

One of the easiest ways to up the ante with blocks is to balance on them rather than your yoga mat. Standard foam blocks are supportive, but still provide a bit of give.

The little bit of give, or squishiness, makes balancing on the blocks much more challenging than the solid floor or mat. Your feet and core have to work a bit harder to find stability on a supple surface.

Here’s How to Use Blocks in 10 Common Poses (With Modifications to Ease or Deepen Each Posture)

When using blocks for these poses, take some time to form a solid foundation. Whether you’re standing, sitting, or balancing on your hands, make firm contact with the blocks.

Spread your fingers, toes, or sitting bones and press into the block to give yourself as much surface area contact as you can. Use your core to support and stabilize your whole body, and then move into the pose.
 
 

Try These 5 Yoga Block Exercises to Challenge Your Practice:

For this yoga tutorial, you will need two yoga blocks. Grab your trusty blocks and get ready to sweat!

A quick technical note: If your feet are longer than the block, then use a strap to secure two blocks together. The strap will keep the blocks from sliding apart, so you don’t stumble.
 

1. Bird Dog Pose/Balancing Tabletop (Bharmanasana Variation)

BirdDog
This is a great warm-up posture to activate your core and find your balance.

Let’s try it:

  • Start on your hands and knees with your hands lined up under your shoulders and your knees under your hips
  • Slide a block under your left hand
  • Spread your fingers wide and press into the block
  • Grab a second block and slide it back under your right knee
  • Bring your right fingertips back to the ground for balance
  • Point your right foot so your toes are off the ground
  • Hover your left shin off the ground
  • Once you have your balance, extend your left leg back until it is parallel to the ground
  • Point your left foot
  • Extend your right arm long in front of you with your palm facing in and your fingertips stretching forward
  • Use your core to support your spine and help find length in the pose
  • Return to all fours on the ground before trying on the other side

 

2. Atomic Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana Variation)

Atomic Dog
This yoga block exercise takes your Down Dog to a whole new level and builds on Bird Dog Pose.

Don’t be surprised if it takes you a few tries to get into this pose. If you find your blocks slipping underneath you, then move them onto a sticky yoga mat.

Let’s try it:

  • Start in Down Dog with one block on the outside of your left hand and one on the inside of your right foot
  • Move your left hand and right foot onto the block
  • Spread your left fingers wide on the block and grip with your fingertips
  • Add a little lifting action to your wrist to keep from dumping into your hand
  • Press your toes, ball mound, and the heel of your right foot (if it reaches!) into the block
  • Lift your left leg into the air finding 3-Legged Dog with a straight leg
  • Keep your hips neutral in this pose by dropping your left hip in line with your right and internally rotating your left leg slightly at your hip socket
  • Come onto your right fingertips
  • Once you have your balance, extend your right arm back by your hips
  • Gaze wherever you find the most balance, as long as it’s not creating strain on your neck
  • Try to stabilize and hold for up to five breaths
  • Intentionally come off the blocks before trying the other side

 
Use a Yoga Wheel to Turn Up the Heat In These 7 Poses (Photo Tutorial)
 

3. Lifted Bow (Dhanurasana Variation)

Lifted Bow
As you progress with your Bow Pose, you’ll begin to shift your weight more into your thighs and off your belly and chest. Use a block under your ribs to help give you some extra lift and chest opening.

Let’s try it:

  • Start in Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana) with a block nearby and your legs hip-width apart
  • Slide your block on its shortest height under your lower ribs
  • Lift and lengthen your legs briefly to decompress your lower back
  • Bend your knees and bring your feet up toward your glutes
  • Reach back and grab the inside or outside of your ankles
  • Press your hip and pubic bone into the ground
  • Kick back with your feet, lifting your chest and shoulders further off the block
  • If you flared your knees wider than hip-distance while coming into the pose, bring them back in line with your hips
  • Hold for five breaths, release your legs, and remove the block
  • Bend your knees and let your ankles fall from side to side to release tension from the pose

 

 
 

4. Dancer on a Block (Natarajasana Variation)

Dancer
If you glide into Dancer’s Pose with ease, then it’s time to challenge your balance by standing on a block. Your Dancer’s Pose may not be as elegant as normal with this added challenge. Take it slow and work up to your full expression.

Let’s try it:

  • Start in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your right foot on a block
  • You can kickstand your left foot to the ground to start with until you find your balance
  • Press into all four corners of your right foot, and lift gently through the arch
  • Ground each of your toes into the block to ensure you have maximum contact
  • Bend your left leg and bring your heel toward your bum
  • Reach back with your left hand and grab your foot or ankle
  • Reach your right arm up to the sky, internally rotating your arm so your palm faces in
  • Activate your core without becoming rigid to find stability
  • With control, kick your left leg back and up as you hinge forward into Dancer’s Pose
  • Lift through your chest and broaden across your collar bones
  • Gaze forward or at your extended right hand
  • With control release your leg, step off the block, and find Mountain Pose between sides

 
The Symbolic Story Behind How Natarajasana (Dancer Pose) Got Its Name
 

5. Boat Pose on a Block (Navasana)

Boat
No one really loves Boat Pose, and you might love it even less after trying it on a block. This yoga block exercise builds on the core work by adding a bit of a balance challenge to it as well, making it full of benefits for your body.

Let’s try it:

  • Place your yoga block on the floor on its shortest height
  • Sit on the block ensuring both of your sitting bones are making contact with the block
  • Use two blocks next to each other for a bit more room if desired
  • Bend your knees, leaving your toes on the ground to start with
  • Extend your arms long beside your knees, with your palms facing each other
  • Lean back and find your balance on your sitting bones and tailbone
  • Draw your core muscles in toward your spine for support
  • Lift your legs, bringing your shins parallel to the floor, or extend them fully to make a “V” shape
  • Hold for up to 10 breaths

 
 

Use These Yoga Block Exercises to Fire Up Your Practice

These poses can be challenging enough on their own. So if you’re still having trouble finding stability and breath in these asanas without the block, then you’ll want to get comfortable with the poses first before adding the additional challenge.

Besides the added challenge, practicing familiar poses in a new way can help to reawaken your practice and invigorate your body-breath-brain connection. Not only will you shake things up, but you might even re-discover some of those core stabilization muscles.

The next time you’re feeling bored or unchallenged by your practice, grab a couple of blocks and give these yoga block exercises a try!
 
 

Ready to Try Out Some Yoga Block Exercises?

Practice Yoga with Props with Samy Mattei on YA Classes!

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Tonya Wetzel

Tonya is a RYT-200 yoga teacher at Loft Yoga, BSL in Bay St Louis, Mississippi. She loves that she gets to share the joy and healing that yoga brought to her life. In addition to teaching yoga, she flips houses with her husband. Outside of work, Tonya is a travel enthusiast who loves the outdoors and adventure, spending time at the local beach, good wine, geocaching, and playing with her three dogs.

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