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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. 

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?