Welcome to Broz Fitness, Welcome to Today’s Gear Review. Today, Alan will review three different materials for yoga blocks: Foam Blocks, Bamboo Blocks, and Cork Blocks.
I think one of the hardest parts of navigating workout gear is that when you read all these reviews online that something fell apart when the reviewer first started using it, as a reader, I am left to feel unsure what to think. I think I find that some of the reviews online are just posted because someone got a product that did not look great when it arrived and largely, I assume these reviews are taken care of by customer service. It is much more difficult to filter those reviews out against the real concerns that people have. Today, I will be reviewing three different styles of yoga block to help explain what works for my students and I in different parts of yoga that I teach throughout the week. As such, I will review a foam block, bamboo block, and cork block. This review will eventually become part of the 2020 Fitness Gear Gift Guide.
Each of these products were purchased with my own money, for my own practice, and they each have unique characteristics. If you happen to click through any of the links contained within this post and purchase gear for yourself, Broz Fitness, as an affiliate for many of these companies, will likely receive a commission.
Looking to all of the facts known at the time of writing this review, I conclude that the cork blocks are the best choice without other blocks. You can see the variety of purposes that I use these blocks for throughout the week. I find that my restorative yoga practice really relies upon the foam blocks when I do not necessarily need direct support of my body but using a yoga bolster or a yoga blanket might feel too overwhelming or too soft. Next, I find that the wooden (bamboo) blocks are really great for times or poses when I want the sturdiest of support such as one-legged forward fold (standing splits). Finally, I find that when I teach more ashtanga-influenced yoga, I like to have support from the cork block because of the variety of uses I can employ for it in the middle of the class without having to rely on multiple sets of yoga props. Because every body is different, I take into account my own experiences as a yoga teacher. Ultimately, I conclude that the cork blocks are the best all-around for the things that I use them for.
Yoga blocks can be used for a variety of things in your daily life and definitely not just yoga. There are countless times where we have used yoga blocks to prop up iPads so that we can be a little lazier as we rest and watch a show. I also secretly use them for the cats to hide behind when we play. I think this is one of my more favorite uses for yoga blocks because they are seriously cute when they hide behind the blocks. You can also use them to support things that you wouldn’t otherwise think of. I have seen people use yoga blocks to hold the over-the-head headphones so that they are not just lying around or in a box somewhere. I also sometimes use them to prevent my Roomba from going into an area where I don’t want them to go.
A Restorative Yoga Class Incorporating All Three Blocks:
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Part 1. Foam Block is Comforting but Uncertain: Too soft.
Initially, I think one of the first things that I would say about foam blocks is that they are really good for less-supported body parts in restorative yoga poses. Anytime you need to rest your body against something but do not necessarily need the block to be there to completely support your body, I like to use a foam block. I think one of the most important times that I use foam blocks is in restorative reclined bound-angle pose: supta baddha konasana. I think the give (resistance) that they provide feels really comforting for some body parts in some of the poses I use them for. I had to eventually learn that they were the best blocks that I had for restorative yoga. By this time, I was using them for supporting my yoga bolster when I laid in the restorative supta baddha konasana with my back on a yoga bolster. However, I think when I do not use a yoga bolster, I end up using the foam blocks to support my knees rather than any of the other things that I have in terms of blocks.
1.1. Foam Blocks are Really Good for Restorative Poses where Body Parts Rest Against the Block.
In supta baddha konasana, we come into the pose placing our feet together and our knees outward. When we do this, one of the restorative modifications includes using a block. You could also use a blanket here, however, the foam block seems to provide the most support while also being comfortable. I find that I want to rest my thighs against something supportive and soft and this is where the foam blocks really outperform the bamboo blocks and the cork blocks.
When I was initially buying yoga blocks, I found that I wanted to support my yoga bolster against a smaller bamboo block. What I eventually learned is that I would need the broader blocks in order to support the yoga bolster. Just the fact that they were foam blocks made me feel like they were not going to be very supportive. I resisted using foam blocks to support the bolster so much, but they turned out to be really good and very supportive.
1.2. I Do Not Feel as Supported by Foam Blocks as I Want in Poses Such as Standing Splits.
I have been teaching a lot of standing splits lately. I think this is one of the biggest detractions from foam blocks for me. When I press my hands in the blocks or rest my hands on them, I get this feeling that I am about to fall. I think this is because maybe the particular blocks that I’m using are so supportive or it could be that they give that is intended to be in a foam block just doesn’t feel comfortable for my body in this position.
Part 2. Wood Blocks. Sturdy but Too Sturdy: Too hard.
I initially did not even want to think about buying foam blocks. So, when I did buy the bamboo blocks I did not even think about the size and I think I ended up with smaller depth blocks. I would initially use the wooden blocks in order to support my yoga bolster because it felt like it would be sturdier, but I learned the very valuable lesson that you need to use a broader set of block in order to be able to more effectively support the bolster. This was a really valuable lesson.
In terms of practicing with them I think that sometimes they are really sturdy for times when you feel like you need to use something sturdier. When you use the blocks for poses or movements where you need a little bit of give, they definitely never give the floor has to give first. Most frequently when I lay in restorative poses, I use the bamboo blocks to support my forearms because they are a little smaller and a little more comforting for my body type.
2.1. Wooden Blocks are Very Sturdy.
You will see a short heading down below that one of the cons of bamboo blocks is that they’re too sturdy, I will write here about the pros on the basis of them being so sturdy. Standing splits is a really complicated pose for me and it makes me feel really insecure when I cannot raise my leg very high because I am trying to engage other parts of my body to feel more supported. This goes away as the practice continues, but the feeling of falling forward makes me feel afraid that I will engage some muscle and risk pulling it. I think having the ability to support myself using the sturdier yoga blocks makes me feel, even if just psychologically, more secure about where my body is in space and time.
2.2. Seriously Though, Wooden Blocks are Very Sturdy.
I think in terms of proprioceptive difficulty, albeit likely very subtle, the fact that the blocks are so sturdy allow me to rest against them a little bit more and rely on them a little more. I think that in terms of a proprioceptive challenge, if I use a block that has a little bit less resistance, one that I can sink into a little bit, that I have to engage more of my muscles (whether this is a good thing is beyond the scope of this review) in order to support my body. As I was reviewing these poses through the blocks just now, I feel my body trying to support itself a little more when I used the foam blocks whereas I just required my body to provide sufficient resistance against the wooden block.
Part 3. Cork Blocks. Give and Support: Just Right.
I am really biased towards cork blocks. I think this bias comes after having use the two soft foam blocks, to the harder wooden blocks. It’s funny as I was writing this post, I wasn’t even thinking about the Goldilocks story until about halfway and suddenly I realized I was being Goldilocks with my yoga blocks. It is true, there are times when I feel the need for extra sturdy support even if it is to fulfill something psychological as I go into a yoga pose. There are times when I want a lot of give, especially for my knees in restorative poses. However, the cork blocks really provide a sturdy foundation while simultaneously being great for movements where I want a little more give.
3.1. Sturdiness with Give.
It is really important to me have the ability to use the blocks to resist against my body in order to get into a pose. The cue about blocks remains true: “use the blocks to bring the floor closer to you.” When the block is too soft or too hard it sometimes feels like the floor isn’t any closer to you than you needed it to be. When the block is too soft it can push you forward, it can push you back, or it can push you farther into poses that maybe you did not need to get that deep into. A cork block seems to fix many of these issues. I feel both support and comfort when I use these, and even though they may have some give where a wooden block might feel more appropriate, I think the fact that they do have a slight amount less of resistance than a wooden block might ultimately promote more safety in poses. On the one hand, having the ability to press against something that has moderate resistance may allow you to relax a particular part of your body you might have otherwise needed to keep engaged. This allows you to get into the pose, emphasizing the necessary parts of the body.
3.2. I Fear Unknown Scratchiness and Less Resistance (Foam Block) Might Be Better for Some Poses.
The poses I list above seem like they would be a little scratchy for the feeling of cork. Especially the one where you put your knees on them. Moreover, I think sometimes not having the ability to have the lessened resistance is detrimental. However, I do not think that the cons of the cork blocks overcome the pros such that the wooden block would be better than a cork block.
Conclusion: The Cork Block is a Superior Choice for an All-Around Yoga Block.
As I mentioned I am really biased towards cork yoga blocks because of my Goldilocks sentiment. I really liked the wooden blocks initially and as I started to teach more styles of yoga, I realized the importance of having more and less resistance from a block for my body to rest and support itself against in different poses. Most especially as a restorative yoga teacher though, I realized the limitations of each of these blocks in restorative poses. This is especially true when I need students, and myself, to get into more relaxed supportive poses such as restorative bridge pose. I think the harder blocks made me feel supported initially, but as we continue to work through more leg supersets, I think that I am becoming a little more biased to the give of the cork blocks for my glutei.
Moreover, I recently used the cork blocks to support my hands and torso as I worked on the full splits and used the foam blocks to support my legs so that I could continue into the stretch without feeling like my legs were being pushed too much. The fact that the foam blocks were able to complement my cork blocks shows that it is not so easy as suggesting that one type of block is the best way to go. As well, I would also add that people sometimes like too soft and too hard. Goldilocks is just one person and Mama Bear and Daddy Bear had preferences too!
As such, I find that the cork blocks are the best choice against a foam block and a wooden block.
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