When I first started practicing yoga years ago, I used to really refuse to use yoga blocks unless the teacher urged it strongly. Half moon pose, triangle pose, pyramid, or extended side angle pose–you name it, I was so stubborn about finding the floor with my hands because I’m so flexible, dammit! But since then I’ve lost my attitude about yoga blocks. The truth is, they not only help you melt into the most relaxing, restorative poses, they also can make your poses deeper and more challenging, or just plain help you understand what you’re supposed to do.
Among other things, using yoga blocks can challenge you to activate the muscles in your inner and outer thighs like never before. If you have a hard time visualizing how to “lift your quads away from your knee caps” and “spin the inner thigh toward the ceiling” and other directions, using a block will help you find that small difference in alignment that will give you big results. Here are my favorite yoga poses to slim thighs with yoga blocks, including a few stretches to lean out both the front and backs of your thighs.
Stand with your feet parallel, then place the block (at shortest width) high between your inner thighs. Raise your arms overhead, wrap your core muscles, bend your knees and sink down into chair position. Squeeze the block tight between the thighs rhythmically, 10 reps. Then continue squeezing the block and pulse your seat down lower for 10 reps.
*Bonus: If you have another block handy, feel free to simultaneously squeeze it (longest width) between your hands to activate your shoulders and upper back muscles.
2. Diver’s pose
From chair pose, fold over at the hips so that your torso is parallel to the floor. Bring your arms by your sides (lose the block if you were using it). Continue squeezing the block between your thighs, feeling your quads lifting away from your knee caps and your inner thighs drawing in toward your midline. Slowly come up onto the balls of your feet and straighten your legs. Bend your knees back into folded chair pose– that’s one rep. Repeat for 10 reps.
3. Utthita hasta padangusthasana (Extended hand to big toe)
This uses the block to test your stability and increase the challenge for your legs and core muscles. Place the block on the floor. Step on the block with your left foot. Bring your right knee up, place your left hand on your left hip, and reach with your right hand to yogi-toe-lock the right big toe. Extend the leg all the way straight in front of you, spinning your right hip crease down to square the hips and feeling your right inner thigh rotate up toward the ceiling. Let go of your right foot and raise both arms up toward the ceiling. Pulse the right leg up 10 reps.
4. Warrior IIIFrom Utthita hasta padangusthasana, fold your knee in and extend it straight toward the back while hinging forward at the hips, coming into Warrior III. Choose arms that suit you–either on your hips, by your sides, in prayer, or overhead. Pull navel to the spine and flex through the heel to straighten your right leg and lift it up to hip level. From there, round the back and slowly bring knee to nose. Extend it all the way to Warrior III again. Repeat 10 reps.
5. Boat poseCome to sit. Place the block (shortest width) high between your inner thighs. Extend the legs straight in front of you, pointing your feet, arms in front, for boat pose. Squeeze the block tight and hold the pose for 20 seconds.
6. Bridge pose
Come onto your back. Place the block between your inner thighs (shortest width). Bring your heels close to your fingertips. Either clasp hands underneath your back, or place them by your sides. Bring your hips up into bridge position. Squeeze the block rhythmically with your inner thighs while pressing the feet firmly against the floor to activate your hamstrings.
7. Quad stretch at the wall
Place the block about 6-10 inches from the wall. The closer it is, the greater the stretch. Place your right knee on top of the block, and step your left foot in front so that your left knee is directly over the ankle. Bring the top of your right foot against the wall to stretch out right quads. Pull the abs in and tuck your pelvis under, to activate your right glutes. Switch sides.
8. Fold over
Take a seat with both legs stretched out in front of you. Place the block behind the soles of your feet. Grab onto the block with both hands and use your arms to pull your upper body over the legs.
Related: Power Yoga Fusion for Toning
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling