Removing Blocks by Making Blocks

One of my occasional pursuits since making the move to full-time rural living up here in northern Grey County has been making yoga blocks. I craft them from local White Cedar which I order from the Amish sawmill just a few minutes down the road. Blocks are a common type of yoga “prop” used for support or assistance manoeuvring into, or holding, postures. Though cedar is a harder surface than cork or foam yoga blocks, it is a light enough and soft enough wood that they are still comfortable to use, easy to hold on to, and with minimal slip. Unlike other types of blocks, there is a sensory experience with the light scent of White Cedar, the sight of intricate wood grain, and the feel of real wood.

Cedar blocks are a very personal yoga prop that gradually change character as they pick up your skin oils and as they naturally age such as wood does. I don’t sell the blocks (can’t imagine determining a marketable price for the labour time involved) but give them as gifts.

To say that I “craft” the blocks is perhaps overstating things. Really, it’s just a matter of cutting planed lumber to the right length and then using successively finer grades of sandpaper to bring them to a lovely state of smoothness. Not a high degree of skill involved, it just takes time and persistence. It’s a very tactile, almost meditative, process that I can do just outside the house or pick-up and take anywhere in the forest.

I always seem to make them in pairs, usually side-by-side cuts from the same length of White Cedar, which take the most part of a morning or afternoon to transform into yoga blocks. There’s no particular marker or step that they are “done”; it’s more intuitive, I just get to a point when they seem smooth enough and gently rounded enough and they feel “ready”. It’s one of those activities where you find yourself “in the zone”. It reminds me a bit of, as a child, how hours could go by playing with Lego.

What prompts me to make a pair of blocks is typically when I am in some sort of mental block, feeling unsettled, or just basically out of flow and flittering about from one thing to another. When what I am doing doesn’t seem right, but I’m at a loss to know what I should be doing–if that makes any sense–making a pair of blocks is concrete task to focus on. The process eases me into a state of mild preoccupation that calms the mind, settles the soul, and often cultivates some fruitful pondering from a more balanced place.

I’ve also found that the both the block-making process, and the blocks themselves, are simple but rich yoga metaphors. But I’ll get to those in subsequent “Removing Blocks by Making Blocks” blog posts. Stay tuned. In the meantime, consider what might be your go-to “block removal” activity.

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