Yogis have toys. Did you know that? They are mostly limited to blocks and straps, but oh, the many kinds of blocks and straps we can have! Just when I think I have every style, type of block and strap on the planet, a new one comes out that I just have to have.
I might be a tad anal about my blocks. When I buy them they are color coded by size. Sigh. I know – the purple ones on my shelf will always be 4 inchers. If you come with your own block and it’s green and it’s 4 inches, I may just stare at it for a second registering this. I’m kidding of course, sort of. I’ve got ‘big blue ones’ (extra large 5 inchers) and skinny maroons (3 inchers). The point is, I adore and respect my blocks.
But I have to admit, there is a pecking order to my blocks; each one jockeying for the position of ‘flavor of the moment’. That big blue block comes in handy when I’m doing handstand push ups. Or maybe you just need an extra inch or two slipped under your hip for Krounchasana (Crane Pose)– I’ve got a block for that too.
A soft 5 inch black one goes under the sacrum in Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose). When I mention to my students that we are doing this pose there is quite the scramble to get at those black ones (they are on the top shelf toward the back fyi).
Don’t get me started on my love affair with the 4 inch cork blocks. Oh, so stable for hand balances or under my feet when I’m playing with press-ups. Then there are my wedges. They aren’t technically blocks, but they offer support for my wrists and sometimes tucked under my foot in lunges to give me that extra somethin’ somethin’ going toward Mermaid II… Of any block I’ve ever owned, it is my purple, stable 4 incher that is my go to for all kinds of fun.
I’ve even referred to it as “my best friend the purple block” but then again, take that with a grain of salt. I’m a grown woman here, and I have always loved blocks. But now, here it is, the sad thing about these toys. Some people think you use them only because you need them. You need them because you can’t bend over and touch the floor and so you are relegated to ‘a prop’. Or you need to loop a strap around your foot in a forward fold because you can’t reach your toes.
You are somewhat lacking in something and therefore you need a strap or a block. And so, these toys get a bad rap. Students feel ‘less than’ when they grab a block. Not in my world.
Let me explain.
I don’t need blocks or straps or any props: I want them. I don’t need them; I love them. I don’t need them, they need me. Okay, that last one went too far. I just got carried away, just like I do with my toys. When I look at a purple block I see potential. I see potential to change up my pose; potential to bring me to a place I haven’t been before, potential to see the world a little differently. You see, in my own practice, I really don’t need a block or a strap.
My hamstrings, if anything are overly stretched. I’ve never needed a block under my hand for Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon). So I place one there to see what happens. How does it feel to be slightly elevated up off the ground? How does this change my stability? How does this make my pose fun?
Oh, have I mentioned that I use these toys because they are fun?!
The methodology for Asana Diagnostics has come about partly because of my love affair of all things ‘prop like’. I eyeball a bolster while in a backbend and I think, ‘what if’…And the next thing you know, I have it under my back, where you think it might be helpful. Except that it isn’t just helpful; it’s awesome. And what if I came into Virasana (Hero Pose) and instead of putting the bolster behind me (same old, same old) but instead placed it under my knees to help tip me back into…..Kapotasana?? And this is my game. “What if”? Toys, toys, toys. How can I offer me and ultimately, you, the student, the experience of a pose by enhancing it with a prop? How can I make it fun?
After a practice session I’d be embarrassed to have you over. You’d walk into the studio and you’d see every color block off the shelf, wedges up against the wall, a few chairs strewn about (you’d be amazed at what I can do with two chairs) and sometime even an exercise ball. Several straps of varying lengths; some with large loops, some with small, some with two or three loops! Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I should invite you in right after a ‘play session’. You’d look around and say, wow, this looks like fun!
So, next time you grab a block off the shelf and sheepishly bring it to your mat to aid you in your forward fold, have a new respect. This beautiful block is an extension of you. Eyeball it and let your mind expand. See not just the purple block, but the potential it has to bring you somewhere you haven’t been. Like you, that purple block is nothing more than pure potential. Unleash it. Now.
Amber Huttner, E-RYT 500
Good Life Yoga