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The $10 Foam Block That Saved My Back

It's my ideal workout companion.

Back pain, in particular lower back pain, is a major pain. But I found a way to actually get rid of it. I received the Gaiam Yoga Block for Christmas a few years ago from my daughters. I thought it was one of those classic dad gifts, something that made me smile upon receiving it, but that ended up thrown in a corner and forgotten about. But this little block has been the best thing to happen to my back and one of the most useful items in my day-to-day arsenal. 

A few months after that Christmas, I had a very sore lower back. I strained it at the gym doing something or other, and instead of resting it, I decided a long bike ride was needed. Wrong. Sitting at my desk attempting to work, I struggled to stand and couldn’t get comfortable.

This lightweight foam block helps improve your alignment and posture.

That’s when I remembered that grey square of foam leaning against the wall gathering dust. It was the perfect size, I realized, to fit between my lower back and the chair to take the pressure off. The support it offered my back was instantaneous. Where moments before I was sitting hunched over my desk as I worked,  now I could sit up straight. With the block fit just so, I felt like I was standing with my back to a wall, no effort required to comfortably work in my chair. After an hour I actually felt the muscles in my lower back release from the gentle pressure the block was exerting upon them. With it propped there, I was able to actually sit up straight and feel my back muscles loosen. 

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That was but the beginning of my love affair with this unassuming foam block. Whenever my back is tight, I lie on the ground, position the block under my ass, and stretch; I put it between my shoulder blades, lie flat on the ground, and release pressure on my neck; whenever I’m achy at my desk, I pop the block behind my back to sit straighter. 

It also is an excellent workout partner. I use it as a Yoga prop (its intended purpose) as I go through a basic series of poses designed to help me strengthen my core. I also use it during my five sets of sit-ups, holding the block between my knees. After that 25 minute workout, I spend ten minutes doing deep stretches with the block. In the two years since I rediscovered my block, I have actually shed a few inches around my waistline, can actually do fifty sit-ups in a row, and most importantly have not had any issues with my back. 

Now, there are a lot of yoga blocks out there. But the Gaiam is my go-to for a number of reasons. First of all, it has a smooth, surface that gives slightly under my weight and beveled edges so I’m not digging my soft spots into hard corners. Despite the give, it’s heavier than most (it weighs roughly a pound and a half) which helps it stay in place. Also, the block’s easy to wash, too: all it needs is a few sprays with some cleanser. It’s also small enough to fit in my travel bag when I head, well, anywhere.

And traveled it has. Since I started using the block, there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t used it. It’s made me better, fitter. How’s that for a throwaway present?