When the yoga teacher asks everyone to ‘grab a block for today’s class’, have you ever been confused as to what they’re actually referring to? Are they talking about those brick-shaped props often used in postures like Trikonasana (triangle pose) or Ardha Chandrasana? (Half moon pose), or do they mean those long, flat squares students often sit on to support the hips and spine? The difference between a ‘brick’ and a ‘block’ can be baffling, but despite how similar they may seem, they actually serve two very different purposes. Read on to understand the difference between bricks and blocks, who might need them, and how to use them.
Which is the brick and which is the block?
Prepare to feel full of confidence when you’re asked to ‘grab a block’ next time! The ‘brick’ is the smaller, brick-shaped prop (hence the name). This is the type of prop you might use to support your lower hand in an extended side-angle posture, although with the growing number of creative and hybrid style yoga classes now, there are many creative ways to use bricks that you may never have thought of. The ‘block’ is the flatter prop, and whilst it may look simple, it’s actually something you can use in a myriad of ways.
When would you use a brick?
As we’ve mentioned, bricks are great for supporting the lower hand in postures like triangle and extended side-angle pose. Whilst some people may have the hip flexibility or arm length to reach the floor, others may use a block as they work towards this (or not, because touching the floor – or your toes – isn’t really the goal of yoga). A yoga brick can also be used to engage the deeper core muscles of the inner thighs when practicing postures like Navasana (boat pose) or forearm plank positions. It’s usually a good idea to have a brick next to you as you practice, so you have the option to use it in any of the postures throughout the class.
When would you use a block?
The most common way of using a block is as a support whilst sitting. If you feel uncomfortable sitting on the ground in Sukhasana or any type of cross-legged position, sitting a little higher on one or two blocks can make a big difference. Seated slightly higher, the hip muscles are able to relax, allowing for a more comfortable position, and more length in the lumbar spine. Especially when sitting for extended periods of time in meditation or for pranayama, a block can help your mind move away from your body, and towards your breath, a mantra, or your chosen meditative focus. If your hips, hamstrings or lower back feel tight in floor-based yoga postures like Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold) or Upavistha Konasana (seated wide-legged forward fold), a block can prevent straining muscles and help your nervous system relax in the posture. The more the nervous system relaxes, the more your muscles will feel safe to start relaxing and lengthening too.
Are blocks and bricks only for beginners?
Absolutely not! Although beginner yogis will definitely benefit from using blocks and bricks to enhance comfort and confidence in yoga postures, you’ll usually see experienced students being the first to use props. We all have different bodies, and rather than being a hypermobile gymnast, some of the most advanced yoga students are the ones who actually listen to their bodies, and use the props they need. The more you practice, the more you’ll get to know what your body finds physically easy, and when it might need a little more time to open up to. You might also realise that just because magazines and books show people in certain postures, those postures aren’t right for you. In situations like this, using a block or brick means you can make the posture fit you, rather than trying to push yourself into a posture. Not only that, but bricks and blocks can also be used to make many postures more challenging too.
Should I choose a foam block or a cork block?
The material you choose depends upon your needs. Foam blocks and bricks are lighter, easy to transport, and won’t make anyone jump when they get knocked over in class. The Yogamatters foam blocks and bricks are made from high-grade, non-toxic foam, and are extra durable and scratch resistant. They’re also one of the most popular props available, and come in a range of colours to suit your preference. If you’re a yoga studio owner, opt for the wholesale box of 30 bricks, and box of 20 blocks in different shades, or one uniform colour.
Cork yoga blocks and bricks come with the benefit of being naturally antibacterial, sustainable, and are incredibly sturdy. Use the cork blocks and bricks for your home practice, or if you’re passionate about buying eco-friendlier props, as there are absolutely no toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing of the Yogamatters cork props. If you’re a yoga studio owner, having a range of cork props is especially wonderful for restorative or yin classes, where students can use them to support their limbs and fully relax.
Which blocks and bricks are the best to buy first?
If you’re a beginner yogi heading out to class for the first time (or you want to gift a potential yogi with their first set of props), we suggest the Yogamatters yoga prop kit. For those who want to make their practice more sustainable and eco-conscious, choose the cork yoga block, brick and mat, and the hemp eye pillow and belt. If you’re looking for a fresh set of props as you head back to class, try the Yogamatters eco flow mat, and the Yogamatters block and brick. You can easily store and carry your props in the Yogamatters carry all kit bags too.
Now you know which is the brick and which is the block, what’s your favourite way to use them? Do you have a creative way of using bricks? Do you use your yoga block often in class?