Yoga straps can be a really helpful piece of kit for any Yogi looking to increase their flexibility and to lengthen the time that they hold poses for. Straps are also great for getting the proper alignment in poses.
The tension from the strap provides guidance for the optimal hand or leg position. It’s also a great way of tracking a slow and safe progression in your levels of flexibility. You can simply mark the strap for where you held certain poses and as you progress you can widen your grip for a deeper pose.
Straps are good for Yogis of all experience levels and are particularly pertinent to beginners who have a limited range of motion. For example, when practicing a forward fold (touching your toes) a strap can be very useful in stretching out your quads when touching your toes may not be accessible. This will also help you in reducing the rounding of your back. This is a common misalignment in a forward fold pose.
Even for very experienced yogis, straps can help bridge the gap between their reach in a difficult pose and the hold, so don’t be afraid to leverage this handy tool.
When choosing a yoga strap there are a few things that you should be looking for and these are
2. Around an 8’ length
3. Made with eco-friendly materials
5. Has a D ring buckle
What if I don’t have a Yoga Strap?
There are a few household items that can be used instead of a yoga strap. Things like belts, towels, and scarves can be used as a handy alternative. Depending on the level of resistance that you need. A resistance band may also work if it’s something you have. The strap alternative just needs to be comfortable, have some level of resistance and the material is strong enough to hold your stretch.
Benefits of Yoga Straps
- Provide great support and alignment in poses
- Help Lengthen your stretches
- Improve posture by keeping your shoulder back
- Reduces overextension
Ways to use yoga straps
As we have talked about, straps are used in three different ways. To lengthen, align and deepen. These are the core elements of any good yoga practice, so improving on these is key to progressing on your yoga journey.
Alignment in yoga is probably the most important aspect to focus on. It will maximize your effort level in poses and reduce the risk of injury and overextension. So getting a little bit of help getting your poses on points is great. Straps are a great aid to get this alignment.
Deepening your stretches
Some Days sinking into a stretch just isn’t there for you. There are multiple factors that come into how flexible you feel on the day. Straps really help to deepen your stretch in poses without losing alignment.
If you can train your muscles to length it will result in you becoming more flexible. Getting more flexible should be a slow and measured process. When it comes to lengthening the muscles do not rush into it. A yoga strap can help to deepen your poses as we talked about above therefore lengthening your muscles. Below we have outline a number of poses that assisted by straps can help this lengthening process.
Strap assisted poses
- Reclined Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
A staple stretch for a lot of athletes this stretch focuses on your hamstrings and calves. Particularly good for runners a strap is useful here to stretch out the back of the leg. Simply place the strap around the foot of the leg you would like to stretch out and gently pull back on your foot.
- Shoulder opener
Really good for shoulder mobility. This is a simple pose that can improve your range of motion in your shoulders. The pose can be done from a seated or standing position. Start by gripping the straps wider than your shoulder length. Raising your hand up and overhead while holding onto the strap.
- Seated forward fold
Targeting the hamstrings this stretch releases and lengthens the leg muscles. For Yogis that don’t have the range of motion to touch their toes without arching their back the strap is the perfect tool to make them accessible.
- Wide legged forward fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Start by facing the long side of the mat with both feet pointed in the same direction. Step your feet out to a wide distance. Grab your strap hold at shoulder width. Engage your glutes and firm the edges of your outer feet. Lengthen the spine, fold forward from your waist. Your arms should go up and overhead as you fold forward. Release the head down and tense the lower stomach.
- Boat pose
There is the tendency in boat pose to lose form in your spine. This pose is pretty intensive on your core, so if you don’t have the strength to lengthen the spine a great way to get proper alignment is to use a strap in this pose. To get into this position. Be in a seated position balancing on your sit bones. Place the strap around your feet creating tension in the straps with the hold. Lean back into a boat position keeping your spine long and slowly straighten your legs to a range of motion that is comfortable to you. Don’t worry if your legs aren’t locked out. That will come with practice.
- Reclined Pigeon
A great pose for people that have knee pain and find traditional pidgeon uncomfortable. Reclined pigeon reduces the pressure from your knees. To get into this pose lay flat on your back. Bend the knees so that your feet lay flat on the mat. Bring your ankle to rest on the opposite leg. The ankle should rest just below the knee on the thigh. Traditionally you would place both your hands in between your thighs and reach for the back of your thigh on the lower leg. If this is not accessible to you, place a strap around your lower leg and gently pull the strap towards your chest. Hold this pose for a number of deep breath cycles. Once done, move to the other leg and repeat.
- Warrior III
This can be a difficult pose to get right. It requires balance, concentration and strength. One of the most difficult parts of this pose is bringing the leg back in a horizontal manner. Once you are in the pose, you should be able to draw a straight line from your head to your raised foot.
To get into this pose, stand upright with your legs around shoulder width apart. Place your strap underneath the foot that you plan to elevate. Pick up the strap and create a little bit of tension as you pull up. Keep your standing leg straight and slowly begin to bring your other leg back and up.
Continue to pull the strap.Your shoulders and back muscles will naturally pull back as you hold the strap. Once your torso, legs and head are horizontal hold the pose for a number of breath cycles. The strap helps you to use the power of both legs to balance.