Free Your Breath with a Yoga Block

This entry was posted on Jun 11, 2015 by Charlotte Bell.

Practice Prasarita Padottanasana with a Yoga Block

Prasarita Padottanasana is one of yoga’s most balancing standing poses. Its symmetrical shape keeps your pelvis, sacroiliac joint and spine neutral and quiet, while the active rooting of your feet and legs allows your upper body to be soft and receptive. I like to settle into Prasarita in between standing poses to allow my body to ground and integrate.

Practicing Prasarita Padottanasana confers many benefits. It strengthens and stretches the inner legs, hamstrings and spine; tones the abdominal organs; and calms the brain. It’s said to relieve some headaches and reduce fatigue.

Prasarita can be contraindicated for people with tight hamstrings. When your hamstrings are taut, your pelvis can’t tilt forward along with the spine. This can put pressure on the discs in the lower back, which could lead to disc problems. Also, curling the torso forward in order to reach the floor contracts your abdominal muscles, restricting free breathing.

Using a Yoga Block in Prasarita Padottanasana can help people of all levels of flexibility practice safely and comfortably. Anyone can benefit from using a Yoga Block in this pose. My hips and hamstrings are quite flexible, but I still enjoy using a block in this pose for the feeling of continuity it creates in my torso. Several of my most bendy students enjoy using a block as well.

Yoga Blocks are available in cork, 3-inch or 4-inch foam, marbled foam, recycled foam or wood. Hugger Mugger’s Big Block is extra large for extra stability and comfort.

Here’s how:

Begin by standing on a nonskid Yoga Mat with your feet hip width apart. Jump or step your feet out to a wide stance, about a leg-length apart. If you extend your arms straight out from your shoulders, your feet should be directly below your hands. Plant your feet into the ground, feeling the footprint you are making on your mat. Are the inner and outer heels and balls of your feet planted evenly? If not, chances are you may feel the weight sagging into your inner feet. Allow the muscles and skin of your outer legs to stream down along your bones from your hips to your outer feet to help you root the feet more evenly.

Place your hands on your hips. Bending from the pelvis, let your torso come forward as far as it will go without losing contact with deep breathing. Place your hands on the floor and take a few breaths. Now place your hands on a Yoga Block and check in to see how that changes your breathing. A Big Blue Block or two 4-inch Yoga Blocks (cork, foam, recycled foam, marbled foam or wood) work best, but you can also use a single 4-inch Yoga Block in any of the materials listed above. Each block has three dimensions: tall, medium and flat. Try each one to see which feels best. Stay for 5 or 10 deep breaths.

To come up, place your hands on your hips and lift back up to an upright position. Place your palms together in front of your heart, bend your knees slightly and allow the weight of your pelvis to release into your legs. Relax your abdomen and breathe deeply, resting.

Here’s a more detailed description of Prasarita Padottanasana, applying the movement principle of navel radiation to create more freedom in the pose.

For more ideas on how to use Yoga Blocks, visit our Props Guide.

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

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