‘Block-asana’ (block pose)
I learned this pose in the early 90’s from Iyengar yoga teacher, Alan Goode. Alan had me assisting him for a year in his yoga therapy classes in Newtown. Almost every student who came to do Alan’s remedial yoga programs did this block pose as their ‘arrival’ exercise.
To help me better understand the benefits of it, I incorporated block pose as part of my centring and warm-up practice routine. Apart from obvious benefits for quietening the mind and settling the body, block pose relieved my neck and upper back tension. Some other advantages: block pose is a great preparation for, or even an alternative to, headstand.
An effective chest opener, block pose releases tightness in the upper back because it works on the rhomboids. These are the muscles that stabilise the shoulder blades. When rhomboids are weak or overly tight they will restrict movement and contribute to stiffness.
Here’s how to set up
Set up a bolster, a folded blanket and a block as shown. Then lie on your back with your head on the blanket, its edges at the top of your shoulders and the block between your shoulder blades. The block supports your upper back with its top edge near the bottom of your neck (C7 vertebra). The bottom edge of the block is near the bottom of your shoulder blades.
At first, the block may feel a trifle hard against your spine, but usually that sensation goes after a minute or so. If any discomfort persists, you can reposition the block so it lies flat or cover it with another blanket. Stay in the pose for at least 5 minutes, but 8 minutes is even better.
Then, focus on relaxing your back and gently breathing into your front chest. On occasion, and I’m not necessarily recommending it, you might even drift off into a nanna nap.