Benefits of Using a Yoga Strap?
Yoga props can be extremely helpful in taking your yoga practice to the next level, no matter if you are a beginner or an advanced yogi.
Here are some awesome reasons to start incorporating a yoga strap into your practice today:
1. Improving body alignment
One of the biggest advantages of a yoga strap is helping get your body in the correct alignment. Rather than focusing on looking the same as the person next to you, yoga straps help you get a deeper stretch, while working within the boundaries of YOUR body. Many students go into a forward fold with rounded backs, rather than keeping their back straight and moving their pelvis. Incorporating a yoga strap helps to focus on keeping your back straight, so eventually your pelvis loosens, and your body folds forward.
By focusing on getting your body into the correct alignment first, you will reduce the risk of getting injured and improve your overall body mobility. Thus, incorporating the use of a strap helps correct your alignment first, and deepen the stretch second.
2. Taking your practice to the next level
Although yoga is about working within, as your body slowly releases all the tension, you may find it easier to get into postures (particularly the difficult ones). Using a strap helps you to stretch specific areas where otherwise you may not be able to reach.
When I first began practicing yoga, my shoulders and triceps were so stiff, and I was unable to grasp my hands behind my back. Thus, the use of a yoga strap helped me to slowly loosen up, until one day I was able to touch my two fingers together.
Throughout this process of releasing, I was able to keep my body in the correct alignment, and eventually experience the posture in all its glory.
Even if you are more advanced in your practice, the use of a yoga strap simply helps get your body into a greater alignment, while assisting you into a deeper stretch.
3. Hold postures for a lot longer
The use of a yoga strap allows you to hold postures a lot longer than you otherwise would have, so you can get deep into those facia muscles.
The practice of Yin yoga means you hold a posture for 3-5 minutes, which can sometimes be challenging without the use of propers, such a strap. A great example is stretching your hamstrings by placing one end of the strap around your head, and the other end around your foot. Simply lying there and allowing your body to release can be so deeply healing and gentle on your body.
The Different Ways to Use a Yoga Strap
A yoga strap serves three many purposes: correcting your alignment, lengthening your muscles, and deepening your stretches. Incorporating these three elements can truly take your practice to the next level in the safest and effective way possible.
So, what postures can you practice using a strap?
Here are 5 GREAT stretches you can begin to incorporate today:
1. Seated Forward Fold
Seated Forward Fold is an awesome hamstring stretch, but is so commonly missed out on due to poor alignment. So many people fall into the trap of allowing their backs to round because they are trying to reach their hands to touch their feet or legs and lack length. One should instead focus on keeping a straight back, allowing their pelvis to tilt forward, and then watch as their hands follow down to the feet.
By placing the strap around your toes, and focusing on keeping your back straight is a great way to take your seated forward fold to the next level
How to use a yoga strap in Seated Forward Fold:
- Sit down on your mat and bend your knees to place the strap under the balls of your feet.
- Start straightening your legs and flex your feet, exhale and fold over your legs with a straight spine. You really don’t have to go far here, just so that you can feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
- Breathe and release
2. Reclined Big Toe Touches
This is the reclined version of the Hand to Big Toe Pose. This posture is great to stretch out your hamstrings, and the use of a strap helps you if you are unable to touch your toes, or if you going to be in the posture for a few minutes.
How to use a yoga strap in Reclined Big Toe Touches:
- Lie down on your back, bend your right knee to your chest, place the strap under the ball of your right foot and straighten your leg while holding onto both ends of the strap.
- Keep on adjusting the strap until you can lie down comfortably with your shoulders on the ground. Repeat on the other side.
3. Butterfly Pose
Butterfly Pose or Bound Angel is an awesome hip opener, but it can be challenging to keep a straight back. Using a strap in Butterfly pose is not only good to help maintain a good posture, but it is also amazing to help pull your heels in closer towards you to deepen the stretch in your hips.
How to use a yoga strap in Bound Angle:
- Begin in a seated position with your heels touching and sitting with a tall spine.
- Wrap the yoga strap around your back and pull both ends forward towards your feet.
- Loop the strap around your feet and tighten it until you feel a comfortable pull on your heels and lower back.
- Allow your feet to come in towards you to deepen the stretch while supporting your lower back.
Chaturanga is a very difficult posture, that so many people get wrong by taking a shortcut. Using a yoga strap is a great hack you can use to get your body used to proper alignment. Many people unknowingly push their elbows out. Using a yoga strap will keep your arms tucked in towards your sides and allow you to develop the proper strength in order to practice the pose to its full potential.
How to use a yoga strap in Chaturanga:
- Place the strap above the elbows at shoulder width. Keep the strap taut to avoid your elbows collapsing out.
- From Plank position, shift forward before moving down until your chest touches the strap.
- This is how your Chaturanga should feel. If it is too difficult you can always set the knees down but keep your elbows in and your chest moving forward.
5. Seated Side Stretch
One of my favourite stretches for tight shoulders and side body is the seated side stretch. Using a strap is a great tool to force your shoulders and chest to open instead of collapsing forward. It also allows some resistance to push against so you can get an amazing side stretch!
How to use a yoga strap in Seated Side Stretch:
- Hold your strap out in front of you with the hands at arm-length distance apart.
- Start lifting the strap over your head and down your back. If you can’t do the full movement without bending your arms, increase the distance between your hands and repeat the stretch until it feels like a comfortable distance.
- If you feel comfortable, begin to bend to the side, keeping your chest lifted and back straight by engaging your core.