When we first heard that there were new yoga blocks on the market, we didn't think much of it. Yoga blocks, like mats, are nearly a dime-a-dozen these days and, except for new and fancy colors, they all look pretty much the same. When we saw the Gripitz Exercise Blocks, we realized these really were a departure from the traditional block. Shaped like large square dumbbells -- but still as light as normal foam-type blocks -- they are designed to allow users to keep their wrists in a neutral position even while doing poses like Upward Facing Dog, which requires that wrists stay at a 90-degree angle while suporting a lot of body weight. Think of what pushup bars do for your hands and wrists while doing pushups.
The three-pound blocks, introduced about a year ago, don't come with any yoga instruction material, but using them is pretty intuitive. Whenever a pose calls for wrists to be flexed or bent, which can cause discomfort or even pain for some, you can use the Gripitz blocks to keep your wrists straight and aligned with your hand.
Gripitz -- made of high-density foam over a metal armature -- are a bit longer than traditional yoga blocks to allow room for the cushioned bar that you grip. That means they can be less stable when placed vertically with the small end down for poses like Triangle. The blocks also tended to slide a little bit if not positioned just the right way for poses like Downward Facing Dog. You also have to be sure to follow the arrow on the ends so you position the blocks with the "up" side up (the bar between the two block ends is slightly higher off the ground to allow for better gripping and balance).
Our testers who have wrist problems, like carpal tunnel syndrome, nevertheless enjoyed using the blocks and found them very helpful in reducing discomfort. Testers who didn't normally use blocks or modified movements while exercising liked using Gripitz, but weren't sure they would use them as often. We also found you could really lose focus between poses since you can't just put your hands down where they automatically go, but instead must find the blocks, move them to the right spot, then go into your pose.
With their shape, one can, of course, also use them for pushups, Pilates and other basic stretches or weight-bearing exercises. So although the price is higher than other yoga blocks, they have more uses.
SNEWSÂ® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested retail: $40
For more information: www.gripitz.com or 510-562-8554