Saturday, 7 March 2015

Yoga On A Block For Strength, Stability, and Mobility




We have been challenging ourselves beyond the high plank to bakasana and handstand of last week's post.

This week we discovered how great a pair of blocks can be to enhance strength, stability, and mobility around the shoulder and spine.  

The video shows us working to a chandra namaskar variation.  Some step by step instructions are below.  I have skipped the half push up that we did.  On reflection it is probably not ideal here.  

Some of the instructions on the block might not be exactly what you do on the ground.  However, the arm actions are pretty similar.  When you do this sequence then do a normal down dog on the ground it will feel as though you are as light as a feather. 

Downward facing dog
You can start with downward facing dog.


We put our wrist on the bevelled edge of the block and the ball of the foot on the other block.

Push down and forward strongly through the hands.  Stay here, make sure you are firm but calm.  No need to go further.

High plank
Then slowly move to high plank.

You want to try to avoid sagging in the shoulders or hips here.  That means you need to really push down and forward with your hands into the blocks. Lift the lower ribs into the upper back.  

With your feet, you also push on the edge.  

The tummy needs to be firm in a way that you can breathe into it so you might just try the high plank on these blocks, rather than the whole sequence. 

Legs are firm as well.  Pushing thigh bones to sky.

You can stay here if you like.  No need to go further.

Upward facing dog
I have skipped the push up we did.  Too stressful for most.  Instead, you could try up dog. 


Again, you push your hands down and forward. Armpits pressing down. Strong in the legs so you do not sag.  

We lowered our pelvis carefully so there is no strain in the lower back.  We kept the firm tummy we had in the high plank.

We lift the chest to lengthen the front without squashing the back. 

Go back through high plank and down dog.  

Lunge
Step a foot forward for a high lunge.


Front foot pushing down and forward strongly.  Pressing with back foot as well. Trying to keep hips raised and tummy stays firm.

You can stay or raise the body and arms.


Hip variation
From there we lowered the torso, hands to block.  We turned the front foot out to the side and allowed the thigh to drop out as well.


Keep legs firm.  Raise the body if you like but remember to lengthen the front without squashing the back.  Do not feel squashing anywhere. 



Back and do it all again on the other side
Back to plank and down dog and repeat on the other side.

Optional extra
Since we were up there already, we decided to try a side split.  

Make sure you try and push the feet down and feel as though you are trying to pull them together.

Ankles are firm. Tummy is firm. 

The end
This was a fun sequence for us to try and enhance our practice.  You can get lazy with your yoga practice sometimes and this type of practice forces you to be mindful and stable. 

You cannot collapse into your flexibility here.  Being between the blocks obliges you to be strong. 

We tried downward dog and handstands after this.  They felt light and free.  Although I was pretty tired I must say!

I always recommend you practice with a teacher.  Do not do anything that strains, squashes, or hurts.  

Happy and safe practicing.

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2 comments:

  1. This is so fascinating. Im wondering is the reason for having to use more muscle action here is becasue the blocks are further apart than the normal stance? Hence you have to reach further, stretch a little further, activate just that little bit further? I want to try this!
    thanks Samantha for all your inspirations!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words. The blocks are too far apart, you are right. Ideally we would get some town planners as yogis to set them up for us when they design these things! Working with what we have, what these blocks do is oblige you to work in the way that I advise students and myself to be working when you are on the ground--that is push down and forward with the hands (armpits in the opposite direction to create the stability around front and back shoulder). The thing is I find people can get the downward action when on the ground but pushing forward is a bit trickier. Working on the edge of a block helps you get that forward movement as well. This was actually all by accident because we saw these blocks near where we practice so we wanted to work with them. It actually does not matter how far the blocks are apart as around the corner we sometimes practice on some that are closer together so when you do a plank your shoulders are over your wrists. Because of the hand position though, i.e. on the edge of the block, you still get a good forward action. We try all different places to see what it does, always mindful of not squashing and sinking and moving slowly! Looking forward to finding out what features of the natural environment we can practice on at our retreat in Bali! Much metta, Samantha

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