Even If You Don't Do Yoga, This Yoga Prop Can Work Wonders On Your Back

Just lie down and get ready to feel the relief.
Alexandr Dubynin via Getty Images

Before becoming a regular at my local yoga studio, I always assumed those rectangular blocks were there to help you balance in challenging poses. Yet, as I tried different classes, I learned this versatile prop can be instrumental in getting an easy but deep stretch and easing tension in your back and hips. You can literally just lie down on them for a few minutes and start feeling relief.

According to Jennifer Purwin, a former yoga teacher and physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health and orthopedics at FemFirstHealth in Manhattan, the relief you feel when lying on yoga blocks (or other yoga props) comes from your muscles being externally supported and able to relax, allowing gravity to do the heavy work.

“That might be a block underneath the thorax or the ribcage, one under your head, maybe on the outsides of your knees. Once you’re in a position where you’re not having to contract your inner thigh muscles, your glutes — the muscle gets this opportunity to passively lengthen.”

As Purwin describes, in a healthy muscle contraction, the protein filaments in your muscles pull toward each other and then go back to their baseline. Yet, when your muscles are tight, it means these lines of protein are stuck too close together.

“You can try doing a more aggressive stretch, but if you’re allowing time and gentle gravity to happen, you’re allowing for this lengthening, where these protein filaments to just slide back where they should be. You’re allowing these structures to relax back to a baseline that is healthy, and from there, you have more power.”

Purwin recommends the passive pose seen below, which is easy to do at home and doesn’t require extreme strength, flexibility or equipment.

Of course, in addition to these passive deep stretches, Purwin says that blocks are also great for more active poses in yoga, pilates or any sort of stretching at home. Whether you’re doing lunges or trying to bend over and touch your toes, having a rectangular block, which you can use on any of the three heights for extra length can bring the floor to you, helps you make the most of your practice.

Below is my favorite yoga block, as well as some top-rated items that come highly recommended from reviewers. Most of them measure 9x6x4 inches, but they all have different weights and densities for your personal preferences.

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The Manduka foam block I love
These are the blocks my yoga studio has and I'd recommend them for any home practice. The surface is soft and feels good in your hand or between your knees, and the material has a bit of give but is still firm and supportive. It's a higher price point than some other options, but it can really take a beating and keep its shape and integrity for a long time. Truly, I have seen the same blocks used hundreds of times by hundreds of students, and they're still in great condition. They're made from ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, measure 9x6x4 inches and weigh just under a pound each.

Promising review: "I decided to spring for the extra cost for these because I thought the quality would be worth it. And, I was not wrong. These blocks are sturdy, comfortable and the weight is perfect…not too heavy like a cork block but heavier than then more inexpensive brands. Manduka makes a quality product so if you plan to use your blocks a lot in your yoga practice, these are well worth the investment." — J. Champagne
A pair of mid-weight Peloton foam blocks
Like anything from Peloton, these yoga blocks won't be the cheapest option, but they'll be aesthetically pleasing, durable and a high quality you can immediately feel. Measuring 9x6x4 inches, they're made from a high-quality EVA foam that's soft to the touch and they weigh about a pound each.

Promising review: "Didn’t realize the quality of basic yoga blocks could differ so much!! These are by far superior to my other basic blocks. Very sturdy. Great size. 10/10 would recommend" — Lori Diane
An extra-firm, heavier Manduka cork block
If you're looking for something a little heavier, these fine-grain cork blocks weigh a little over two pounds making them extra firm and sturdy in your practice. They measure 9x6x4 inches and have a natural texture to them that can make them steady in the hand.

Promising review: "Upgraded to these from foam yoga blocks that I've had for years. The cork weighs a whole lot more but can really support your weight and make you feel stable if you're trying to put a lot of weight on the blocks. Highly recommend these." — REF
A set of two lightweight foam blocks with a strap
Jumpstart your home setup with this budget-friendly set of two EVA foam blocks and an 8-foot D-ring strap. These 9x6x4-inch blocks are incredibly lightweight, coming it at .35 pounds each, with a soft, non-slip surface that will keep your grip.

Promising review: "These work perfectly to enhance my yoga practice. Firm and stable without being rockhard and digging if I use them for back support or under hips." — Jennifer F.
Lululemon's rounded edge block
This innovative yoga block gives you a handy curved edge for extra comfort under your neck or on your wrists. It's made from EVA foam in an eye-catching marble and measures 9.8x5.9x3.5 inches.

Promising review: "I was skeptical that this block could improve my practice but WOW. I have carpal tunnel as well and issues with my fingers from sports so the curved edges offer so much more comfort in a lot of poses. If there were other colours I would buy another set." — Moss
A lightweight, marble foam set with a strap
Another lightweight set option, this pair of marbled EVA foam blocks weigh .38 pounds each and comes with an 8-foot-long strap. The blocks measure the typical 9x6x4 inches and the set boasts a 4.9 out of 5-star rating, with many commenting on the feel and eye-catching design.

Promising review: "just what i was looking for. blocks were the right size i wanted (some are less thick). love the swirled colors. also love that it comes with the strap as i needed one of those as well." — Taylor
A budget-friendly, super lightweight block
Of course, if you're just looking to test a block out, this foam option costs $8 and weighs less than half a pound. It measures 9x6x4 inches and comes in this dreamy sky blue that you'll love to look at.

Promising review: "If you need a yoga block, this is a great basic option! It does everything it needs to do and the price point is hard to beat! The blue color is beautiful and clean." — Crystal
A mid-weight block that comes in a ton of colors
Looking for something a little more vibrant? This .68-pound block comes in 18 colors and patterns, giving you a little self-expression as you stretch. They're 100% EVA foam, measure the classic 9x6x4 inches with beveled edges for added comfort.

Promising review: "I picked up the Everyday Yoga Foam Block with Soft Non-Slip Surface for Stability, Balance, as I'm an older person who is not so flexible in certain areas of my body and need a little help with balance. It does the job, in one of my favorite colors, no less. Highly recommend." — scandia

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