The best phrase I have heard about yoga blocks is “they bring the floor to you.” The blocks can actually allow us greater freedom to find our grounding points in a pose, and then feel secure in blossoming into the pose. Blocks are commonly used in poses like Triangle pose, Low Lunge, and others.

man in low lungeLow lunge is an accessible yoga pose, especially with the use of blocks under the hands, that helps to (gently) stretch into the psoas muscle of the extended back leg. What is the psoas? “The iliopsoas refers to the joined psoas and iliacus muscles. It is the strongest muscle of the hip flexor group, originating in the upper vertebra of the lumbar spine and attaching to the lesser trochanter of the femur (a tiny prominence near the head of the thigh bone). It is the only muscle that connects the lumbar spine to the lower body and as such, has a huge impact on posture.”

But the psoas and hip flexors are so much more than just a physical manifestation. It is a source of the signaling of danger or release to the body as a whole. As the psoas muscle becomes shortened due to being sedentary, we lose posture, mobility — basically our fundamental lightness of being. If we experience major, or minor and cumulative, trauma(s), the “freeze” reaction we use as a coping mechanism can become held in the hips and psoas. Replace the word “trauma” with “stress,” and we have the exact formula for constricted psoas and the accompanying syndromes – exhaustion, stagnation, and depression. In extreme, we might literally be living in a state of restricted communication between the upper and lower body, losing our connection to the body as a integrated, living whole.

In Seed to Flower Recovery Yoga classes, we spend time on strengthening the support for the hips and psoas, and also stretching gently into the area to release tension and stress. This is where the blocks come in. If you are struggling with painful memories, addiction, incarceration, or other challenges — and those struggles literally are lodged in your body — mindful movement that incorporates a focus on gentle stretching into the psoas region can have profound benefits. While cardio, weight training, and other forms of fitness work with the body in various ways that can be beneficial, the combination of mental focus through cuing and imagery, and the coordination of breath and movement, produce the benefits of release that underly the extensive health benefits of yoga. So, yoga blocks = most everyone can stretch, at least a little, into their psoas = release of stress, more flexibility, greater range of movement = positive benefits of well-being. And this is why…. through the generosity of our donors:

Breathing Space Yoga & Mindfulness Studio donated 40 yoga blocks to support and enhance our Seed to Flower Recovery Yoga class at the Hampden County Prerelease Center in Ludlow, MA! Much appreciation and thanks to the participants and counselors who make this all happen each week.