Patent application title: STRETCH ASSIST BLOCK
Isaac Ramirez (Lubbock, TX, US)
IPC8 Class: AA63B7100FI
Class name: Exercise devices user manipulated force resisting apparatus, component thereof, or accessory therefor user interface element
Publication date: 2012-12-27
Patent application number: 20120329623
A stretch assist aid for safely and incrementally increasing a user's
flexibility while objectively measuring the user's progress.
1. A stretch assist aid for achieving and objectively measuring gains in
flexibility, the stretch assist aid comprising: a block having a top
surface, an opposing bottom surface, a first side surface, an opposing
second side surface, a first end surface, and an opposing second end
surface, and further having a plurality of handholds on at least two of
the opposing surfaces.
2. The block of claim 1 wherein the block is of strength enough to support a person standing on it.
3. The block of claim 1 wherein the block is hollow.
4. The block of claim 1 wherein the handholds comprise cutouts from the surfaces.
5. The block of claim 1 wherein the handholds comprise rods.
6. The block of claim 1 wherein the handholds are sequentially spaced.
7. A stretch assist aid for reducing injury in stretching, said aid comprising: a block having at least two planar surfaces of sufficient size for standing on, the block being of sufficient strength for standing on, and further comprising at least two opposing sides comprising a plurality of sequentially spaced handholds.
8. The block of claim 7 wherein the block is hollow.
9. The block of claim 7 wherein the handholds comprise cutouts from the surfaces.
10. The block of claim 7 wherein the handholds comprise rods.
11. A method for incrementally increasing a user's physical range of motion, the method comprising: the user placing at least one foot against a surface of a block and simultaneously grasping at least two of a plurality of sequentially placed handholds found on opposing end surfaces of the block.
12. The method of claim 11 wherein the block is hollow.
13. The method of claim 11 wherein the block is of strength enough to support a person standing on it.
14. The block of claim 1 wherein the handholds comprise cutouts from the surfaces.
15. The block of claim 1 wherein the handholds comprise rods inserted into the surfaces.
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 Not Applicable
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
 Not Applicable
NAMES OF PARTIES TO JOINT RESEARCH AGREEMENT
 Not Applicable
REFERENCE TO SEQUENCE LISTING
 Not Applicable
DESCRIPTION OF ATTACHED APPENDIX
 Not Applicable
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Field of the Invention
 The disclosed invention relates generally to devices and methods for improving stretching ability and, more specifically, a method and apparatus for safely improving one's flexibility and range of motion.
 2. Description of Related Art
 Yoga continues to surge in popularity across the nation. Some of the benefits from yoga include significant improvement in flexibility, balance and lengthening of muscles. Increasing in popularity are accessories to make one's yoga experience more beneficial and safe. Yoga blankets, blocks and wedges are examples such accessories. Yoga blocks are relatively small and lightweight, typically rectangular or oval in shape. The user may place hands or feet (or one hand or foot) on the block to maintain their balance or to deepen their range of motion in a particular pose. One of the goals of yoga is to improve flexibility and range of motion. This is achieved through intense stretching and often complicated physical positions. As result, yoga blocks are employed in order to provide the user with support while they are performing the exercises. The blocks improve the user's alignment and make the user more comfortable in the pose, offering support and comfortable weight bearing.
 U.S. Pat. No. 7,318,794 describes a yoga block system which includes a first block and a second block which can either be rectangularly shaped or triangularly shaped. These blocks are capable of joining with one another. U.S. Pat. No. 7,156,791 describes yoga grip blocks to provide support and comfort in the practice of yoga exercises.
 Outside the realm of yoga, stretching exercises are common to nearly every sport, and even to certain physical therapy activities. A variety of stretching devices have been employed to assist a user to attain greater flexibility but most are either large cumbersome devices or limited purpose devices such as straps.
 There are several limitations associated with traditionally known yoga blocks. One is that they are somewhat difficult to grasp. At an average size of approximately 3 or 4'' thick, 5 or 6'' wide and 9 or so inches long, with smooth surfaces, women with small hands may find it inconvenient to grasp and carry the block. When used to extend one's stretch or deepen one's pose, yoga blocks offer only one height difference from the floor. A student may be prone to overstretch and injure themselves by reaching too far too soon. For example, a student may stand on the block and perform a toe touch stretch, reaching prematurely all the way to the floor as the block enables them to do. The known blocks, having only one height, offer no means of incrementally increasing stretch nor do they provide a way for the student to objectively measure their improvement.
 A device is needed to help a user attain greater levels of flexibility and range of motion, but in a safe, incrementally progressive manner. Such a device needs to be easily portable, lightweight, relatively inexpensive and simple to use. Such a device needs to enable the user to incrementally deepen their stretch while avoiding injury, and further needs to enable the user to objectively measure their improvement.
NOTATION AND NOMENCLATURE
 Certain terms are used throughout the following description to refer to particular components. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, design and manufacturing companies may refer to a component by different names. This document does not intend to distinguish between components that differ in name but not function.
 In the following discussion, the terms "including" and "comprising" are used in an open-ended fashion, and thus should be interpreted to mean "including, but not limited to . . . ." Also, the term "couple" or "couples" is intended to mean either an indirect or direct connection. Thus, if a first device couples to a second device, that connection may be through a direct connection or through an indirect connection via other intermediate devices and connections. Moreover, the term "method" means "one or more components" combined together. Thus, a method can comprise an "entire method" or "sub methods" within the method.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The disadvantages shown in the prior art are solved by a method and device for assisting a user to progressively and incrementally increase flexibility and range of motion while also providing support and stabilization during exercises and yoga positions. The disclosed method and device is easily portable, lightweight, relatively inexpensive and simple to use.
 It is an objective of the disclosed invention to overcome the disadvantages in the current methods and devices for improving flexibility and range of motion in yoga and other activities.
 It is an objective of the disclosed invention to provide a method and device whereby a user can improve their flexibility and range of motion in an incremental fashion to avoid injury and trauma to muscles, ligaments and tendons.
 It is an objective of the disclosed invention to provide a method and device whereby a user can easily transport the disclosed device to yoga and to other classes, activities or sporting events.
 It is an objective of the disclosed invention to provide a method and device whereby a user can objectively discern whether and how much improvement there is in flexibility over the course of sessions.
 It is an objective of the disclosed invention to provide a method and device whereby a user can more easily grasp a stretching and support block when participating in various physical poses requiring support and deep range of motion.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 The drawings contained herein represent preferred embodiments of the invention and are not intended to limit the scope. For a detailed description of various embodiments, reference will now be made to the accompanying illustrative drawings in which:
 FIG. 1 depicts a perspective view of the disclosed stretch assist block.
 FIG. 2 depicts a perspective view of an alternate embodiment of the disclosed stretch assist block.
 FIG. 3 depicts a perspective view of an alternate embodiment of the disclosed stretch assist block.
 FIG. 4 depicts a side view of the disclosed stretch assist block being used in a standing stretch position.
 FIG. 5 depicts a side view of the disclosed stretch assist block being used in a sitting stretch position.
 FIG. 6 depicts a perspective view of an alternate embodiment of the disclosed stretch assist block.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 The disclosed device is a block having a plurality of hand holds on at least two opposing surfaces. In the preferred embodiment, the block is large enough and strong enough that it may support the weight of a person. In the preferred embodiment, the block is constructed of any rigid, stable material that is rigid and strong enough to support the weight of a person, including wood, rubber, plastic, cork, or rigid foam.
 The block, although pictured as six sided (rectangular), is not confined to this shape and other shape possibilities including square, oblong, oval or round with one or more flat surfaces, and other shapes could be used.
 The traditional yoga block or yoga brick as known in the marketplace and mentioned in the above referenced patents enables the user to balance and more fully extend in different poses, providing the user with support and stability. The block has a significant limitation though, in that it only provides a limited range for stretching as predetermined by its size. For example known, if a user stand on the blocks and stretches downward they achieve a greater stretching range, but the increase in range is neither incremental nor measurable from class to class. The risk of injury is high as the user may prematurely try to stretch down all the way to the floor and strain their ligaments and muscles.
 The disclosed stretch assist block is constructed such that, as the user is performing different stretches they can place their fingers in or on various handholds, providing gently graduated increments of stretching. The block's unique construction enables the user to gradually improve their flexibility by using more distant handholds as they improve, and to objectively measure their improvement by noting which handholds they are able to reach in any given session. The blocks may be constructed with varying number of handholds. The handholds may be disposed on only two opposing surfaces of the block or may be on as many as all six surfaces, enabling the user to turn the block different directions for different poses and stretches.
 Turning to the figures, FIG. 1 depicts a preferred embodiment of the disclosed device and method showing a rectangular shaped hollow block 10 with a plurality of handholds 12 cutout from each planar surface of the block 10. The interior of the handholds 12 may be rounded and smooth for additional comfort. The block 10 has a top surface 20, an opposing bottom surface 22, a first side surface 24, an opposing second side surface 26, a first end surface 28 and an opposing second end surface 30. The block 10 may have any number or size of handholds 12 that is desired although at least two are necessary to achieve incremental benefit and objective measurement of progressive. In the prototype shown in FIG. 1, the block illustrates four handholds 12 on the top surface 20 (with a corresponding four handholds 12 on the opposing bottom surface 22), four handholds 12 on the first side surface 24 (with a corresponding four handholds 12 on the opposing bottom surface 26), two handholds 12 on the first end surface 28 (with a corresponding two handholds 12 on the opposing bottom surface 30). The handholds on two of the opposing surfaces may be spaced apart with different widths of intervening spaces than the handholds on another pair of opposing surfaces, such that the user has a wide variety of handhold placement options for achieving different flexibility ranges, depending on how the block is turned. Multiple blocks may be stacked together to achieve even greater stretching range and opportunity for objective measurement.
 FIG. 2 illustrates an alternate embodiment of the block 10 reflecting two large handholds 12 on the top surface 20 (with a corresponding two large handholds 12 on the opposing bottom surface 22) rather than the four shown in FIG. 1. This embodiment is particularly suited for users who wish to place more of their whole hand in the opening rather than just fingers, in order to gain better grip, or users with large hands who prefer a smaller number of larger handholds rather than a larger number of smaller handholds.
 FIG. 3 similarly illustrates an alternate embodiment of the block 10 having three handholds on the top surface 20 (with a corresponding three handholds 12 on the opposing bottom surface 22)
 In the preferred embodiment, as a matter of practice, the user can use the block in any number of various positions in order to achieve further extension on their stretch position or to achieve support in a difficult pose. As illustrated in FIG. 4, the user 30 may stand on the block 10 while performing a toe touch stretch. The user 30 may reach down and place their fingers or hand in the open handhold 12, enabling them to achieve and hold a deeper stretch. The user has an objective way to measure their improvement in flexibility. As an example, the user may be able to place their fingers in the nearest handhold on one session and then, over time, may be able to reach down further and place their fingers in a more distant handhold, extending their stretch. As the user is able to use more distant handholds as their range of motion improves, the user can objectively take note of what openings they are able to reach and subsequently evaluate their improvement in an objective manner. If the user is not as flexible, the nearer handholds offer them a safer alternative to deepening their stretch, rather than reaching all the way to the floor as with a traditional yoga block or brick.
 FIG. 5 depicts an alternate view of the block in use. In FIG. 5, the user is seated, again performing a toe touch stretch. The user has positioned the block against the bottom of their flexed feet. If the block has handholds on each of the surfaces, the user may turn the block any way they like in order to take advantage of the plurality of variously spaced handholds. As the user's stretching ability and flexibility improves they may reach for the more distant handholds.
 FIG. 6 reflects yet another embodiment of the block 40, with the handholds 42 indicated as dowel type rods rather than cutouts from the sides of the block 40. The rounded nature of the rods offers comfort and the rods also present case of construction in that they can be inset into the block. In yet another alternate embodiment, the sides of the block could be planar surfaces on which were mounted handholds external to the block, rather than the handholds being cut out of the block itself.
 Yoga blocks are used in a wide variety of yoga positions to assist with support. Using the stretch assist block instead gives the user not only support but also a wide range of different handholds, enabling the user to achieve a deeper position, a more stable grasp, and an objective way to measure improvement in flexibility and balance.
 The disclosed method and apparatus solves the limitations currently encountered with known yoga blocks, bricks, wedges and stretching aids and provides a lightweight and easily portable aid to stretching or yoga positions. The device provides the user with an objective way to measure their gradual improvement in flexibility. The handholds also provide an easier way to carry the block and a more stable way of grasping the block for support when in a stretch or pose.
 While the disclosed method and apparatus has been described in conjunction with the preferred embodiments thereof, many changes, modifications, alterations and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art. The invention should therefore not be limited to the particular preferred embodiment disclosed but should include all embodiments that could fall within the scope of the claims.
 Accordingly, the preferred embodiments of the invention shown in the drawings and described in detail above are intended to be illustrative, not limiting, and various changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the claims set forth below.
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