Yoga straps are useful for aligning your posture and easing into poses (asanas), especially if you have tense muscles or are recovering from injuries. They allow you to fully experience your poses while maintaining structural alignment of your body, most often in regards to your spine. The nice thing about yoga straps is that you can use them at any level – as a beginner or expert – and they’re a great complement to your practice.
Often times, studios have extra straps available for use, and if you’re a Yogi Surprise member, you’re bound to discover tools like yoga straps throughout the year. Finding the right strap for you can be easy and quick, but it can also take time if you’re particular about the fabric, buckle, or style. For the most part, these simple techniques will help you use your strap to its full potential:
Notes about Yoga Straps
- Yoga straps are often used in a loop, so making sure that you get a strap long enough to comfortably hold each side, even at arms lengths away from the body (like in a seated forward bend), is essential. But don’t always go for the longest size. The shorter you are, the shorter the yoga strap can be, and the less slack you’ll have to manage.
- Remember to begin your practice with a few sun salutations before you jump into using your strap. Warm your muscles and tendons, and allow yourself to reach your full spectrum of flexibility to help minimize potential for injury
- Consider where you’ll be using your strap, and if the practice is more suited for a plastic buckle (quieter) than a metal one (can clank around the floor). This isn’t the biggest concern, but something you should be aware of.
- Yoga straps aren’t just used for easing into poses – they can also offer more challenging tension. If you feel stymied or less challenged in your practice, considering working a yoga strap in your routine to add a new dynamic!
Yoga Strap for Shoulders and Back Alignment
- General Back Alignment: One great use of yoga straps is by wrapping them around your body to build memory for proper posture. There’s an tendency to slouch over time, with the shoulders lurching over the the abdomen (are you slouching now?). Straps can help fix this. First, drape the strap around the back of your next, with equal length hanging from each side. Then, wrap the straps down and under your armpits, cross then in the back like an X, and pull them forward to the front of your body, tightening or tying them together. You’ll notice that the tighter you make this, the more aligned your back becomes – it pulls in your torso under your shoulders. This should be the alignment you maintain through most of your asanas.
- Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose): One popular pose to open your chest and thoracic spine is with Gomukhasana, or Cow Face Pose. The complete stretch is quite difficult – in a seated position, you reach your left arm down and behind your back, and your right arm above and behind your back, attempting to grasp the two. Tight shoulder prevent the full extension, but by placing a yoga strap the right hand and letting the left hand catch it, you can slowly crawl the hands closer together, improving your ability to perfect the asana over time
Yoga Strap for Seated Positions
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend): Paschimottanasana is not an easy asana beginners. The first time I attempted this, I began to realize how un-flexible I actually was. The pose provides a full extension for the back of the body, from head to toe – your legs are extended in front of you, with your hands on your feet and your head near your knees, laid over your legs. Working toward this, you can use straps around your feet in a loop to pull your body closer and ease into the often tight stretch. Slowly pull yourself forward and stretch the hamstrings, but do not allow your knees of lift.
- Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose): Working to stretch the inner thighs, groin, and knees, Bound Angle Pose can be difficult for those with tight hips. First, sit with your back straightened and your legs extended in front of you. Pull your heels in toward the pelvis, pressing the soles of your feet together. If you notice that you’re unable to bring your feet close to your body, use your strap around the bottom sides of your feet, looped around your body. You can tighten the strap incrementally to help bring your feet closer to your body and make the pose more intense.
Yoga Strap for Balance and Standing Poses
- Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Han-to-big-tor pose): Early on, developing your core strength and sense of balance are challenges enough on their own, especially with a pose like this one. Standing, you first take your leg out in front of you. On the next breath, with your gaze to the left (if stretching your right leg), you bring the the leg out to side. Here, you’re challenged to both balance on one leg and hand your hand on the tips of your toes on a full extended leg. Loop your strap around your foot, and use the extra length until you can comfortably hold your foot with your hand.
- Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose): Also known as Dancer’s Pose, this difficult stance requires serious flexibility and balance. Standing, place the yoga strap around the arch of your foot, then cross over the straps and exchange the straps in each hand, making a cross on your foot. With the unstrapped foot step through the loop (like a jump rope), putting the strapped foot behind you. with straps in hand, pull up your foot as you bend your arms and lift then behind your head. Consider placing yourself near a wall for the first few attempts!
How do you use your strap
The versatility of straps has made them a favorite tool by many yogis, as it can both make poses simpler for beginners and more advanced for expert yogis. Straps provide both an option of extension and ease.
We want to hear from you: how do you use your strap? Which poses has it helped you master, and how have you put it to work for you? Tell us in the comments below!