Beginner Yoga Series: How to Use Yoga Straps
Welcome back to part four of our 6-week Beginner Yoga Series. We have been discussing how to start a home yoga routine and what types of yoga may be the right fit for you. Last week, we chatted all about how to use yoga blocks to benefit your home yoga practice. Now we are diving into yoga straps, one of my favorite yoga props!
Yoga straps are my favorite for a number of reasons. They're:
- Low-cost: Usually only $3-7 and can be found easily on Amazon or even Walmart
- Easy to Carry: Whether I am traveling the world or heading off to a local gym, straps take up very little space in my bag and hardly weigh anything.
- Great for Deep Stretches: My hamstrings are one of my biggest problem areas in my body, but straps help to to really dig deep into the stretches in an easy, relaxing way.
There are many different kinds of straps and no kind are right or wrong. There are two things I would pay attention to when shopping for your straps - length and buckle style. If you are short (like me), the length may not be as important, but if you have some long legs, check the length of your strap and see if you can get a size that is a bit longer than standard. The buckles come in metal or plastic varieties and both work great! I tend to prefer metal because I find them to be easier, but I have many friends who prefer the plastic.
Alternatively, there are plenty of poses you can practice with a strap alternative. While traveling, I have used bath robe belts, long scarves, etc. Get creative and have fun with it!
These examples below are definitely not the only way to use a yoga strap, but my intention is to give you some basic ideas. That way, you can enjoy whatever kind of practice you would like and find your own style.
How to Use Yoga Straps
As we discovered with blocks last week, there are many, many ways to use yoga props to make your practice easier, harder, stronger, and softer. Straps are just the same. They can be used to challenge and grow your practice. Straps can additionally be used to soften your practice, allowing you to relax into deep stretches. Let's dive in to some cool ways to use straps at home.
Stretch Out Those Hammies
Whether laying flat on your back or in a seated fold, hamstring stretches can be challenging to pull into, especially when you are limited on flexibility. When you use a yoga strap around the bottom of the feet, you have a place to hold that will allow you to pull into the pose without having to reach your ankles or feet. Additionally, the upper body can stay more relaxed and at ease while laying on the floor.
In this seated posture, we can keep our chest open and back straight as we stretch out the hamstrings.
Laying on our backs, we can place one or both legs into the strap and enjoy different kinds of movement. Perhaps try taking the leg out to the side or around in a big circle.
Holding Restorative Postures
Using the buckle of the yoga strap, we can position our bodies into the loop of the strap to hold parts of our bodies into the poses. Whether using a metal or plastic buckle, we can play around with different ways to hold supported, or restorative, style poses.
Try the hamstring stretch with the strap fully looped behind the low back. The strap will hold the legs up in the air, allowing the upper body to relax.
Check out my video for tips on using a yoga strap to relax into Cobbler's Pose. By looping the strap around the lower back and the outsides of the feet, you can adjust yourself deeper into the posture or relax into it.
Finding a Yoga Bind
What is a yoga bind? Binds generally refer to any action where one part of the body holds on to another part or when two body parts are intertwined. This is often practiced in a way to add a deeper twist, add relaxation to a posture, or hold things to longer periods of time. Straps can help provide the extra length needed to find the bind.
For example, we use the strap in Cow Face Pose to help bring the fingers closer together behind the back by hold the strap instead. Then, we can slowly inch the hands closer together overtime.
Check out the yoga video below to see a cool way to use the strap in order to find the bind in extended side angle pose.
Hold Challenging Balancing Postures
Standing on one foot is already hard enough, but us yogis like to make things even more challenging by grabbing the feet in difficult postures. When we have a hard time with flexibility, grabbing the foot or ankle in standing postures, such as Hand to Big Toe Pose, can cause us to bend forward or sideways in order to reach. This destabilizes the standing posture because we aren't able to find length in the body. A yoga strap can help you grab the feet in these poses, similarly to the hamstring stretches.
In Hand to Big Toe Pose, we can wrap the strap under the foot instead of grabbing the toe. This helps us stand tall and expand the chest while balancing.
If you are working to find the more advanced option of Lord of the Dance by grabbing the foot overhead, try using the strap to begin inching the hands closer to the foot.
Psssttt.. you can do this similar stretch in King Pigeon pose on the floor ^
Assist with Posture
There are plenty of ways to wrap ourselves up in yoga straps. The best wraps help pull the shoulders down and back while opening the chest. This alignment helps us to sit tall and elongate the spine.
To practice my favorite stretch, take the middle of the strap along the center of the back (about where a bra line would sit). Taking the two sides of the straps, flip them directly over the shoulders. Reach behind the back and grab the left strap with the right hand and vice versa, making sure the strap is not flipped. Gently the pull the straps forward under the armpits, letting the shoulders pull back and the chest open.
How to Use Yoga Straps
For a guided explanation of these examples and a few other tricks, check out this quick video:
As I mentioned with blocks last week, do not shy away from using yoga props, especially out of embarrassment. Be proud of yourself for finding creative ways to deepen your stretches or challenge your postures. Beginners and advanced students alike - enjoy the shi** out of your yoga props! They're here to help you and are pretty darn useful.
Next week, we will be diving into other fun yoga prop alternatives, so be sure to stay tuned to learn more about beginner props. Subscribe to my email newsletter to make sure you don't miss anything and enjoy some special insights from me that I do not share on the blog.
Questions about how to use yoga straps? Comment below and let's keep the conversation going!