4 Ways to Deepen Your Practice With a Yoga Strap (Video Tutorial)
Yoga straps are a great way to enhance your yoga practice, whether you’re a beginner, or an everyday practitioner. Yoga straps help bridge the gap in certain poses, create more strength through resistance, and also help increase flexibility.
Yoga straps can be used in many poses throughout your practice, but the poses we’ll cover here are a great way to explore the broad range of ways that we can incorporate a yoga strap into our yoga practice.
Here are 4 yoga poses you can practice with a yoga strap to deepen your practice:
1. Seated Forward Fold
This seated stretch is a traditional, common preparatory pose to begin any sort of movement you plan on doing.
Set-Up: Come into a seated position on the mat and move the fleshy part of your gluteal muscles to feel your sit bones grounding into the earth. Be sure you are not “dumping” in your pelvis, so an engaged low belly will help deepen your stretch and find length through your spine.
Practice: To begin, make a big loop with your strap and place the loop around the big toe mounds of the feet. Keep the feet and toes flexed, allowing energy to run through the entire leg. Create tension with the strap by making sure your feet stay super active!
Keeping the legs engaged, pull the strap so it’s taut, and hinge from the hips as you walk your hands down the strap to start to create some resistance. Nothing is forced in this, so pause when you feel your edge. After a few breaths, gently increase the stretch and hold for a few more breaths, and then slowly release.
Benefit: The more you do this stretch before any sort of sport or activity, the more flexibility and range of motion you will create.
2. Shoulder Stretch
Our shoulders can hold a lot of tension and tightness from hours spent hunching over a computer screen, driving, exercising, etc. It’s important to spend time reversing these movements to maintain mobility.
Set-Up: Come into kneeling on your knees or sit cross-legged in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) to move into a deep shoulder stretch.
Practice: Start holding the strap in one hand. Lift the strap overhead, and bending the elbow, drop the strap down your back. With the opposite arm, bend the elbow, and reach behind your back for the strap. From here, you should be able to walk your hands closer together with the strap to create a deeper opening through the shoulder girdle, and also increase range of motion through that joint.
Be sure to keep the belly drawing in and up, navel to spine, as you lift the back of your head and create length through the spine. This technique will also deepen the stretch through the shoulder. Pause for three to five breaths, and then switch sides.
Benefit: This stretch is a great way to release tension and create more space in the shoulders.
3. Dolphin Pose or Ardha Pincha Mayurasana
This pose is a great way to build strength in the shoulders. A common misalignment in this posture is that the arms are too far apart, creating a risk for injury.
Set-Up: Make a small loop with the strap and slide it up around the biceps. Make sure the elbows and forearms are in line with the shoulders, creating an ‘L” shape with the arms. The forearms should be parallel with each other, with a straight line from your wrist to your elbow. Hug your elbows in towards the midline to activate the bicep and the tricep, toning the arms.
Practice: Make sure the strap has tension, and come onto all fours or Table Top Pose. Place your forearms on the mat, again making sure you are creating that L shape with the arms. Dolphin is just Down Dog on your forearms, so tuck your toes and lift your hips.
Begin to walk your toes a few steps closer to your face. Drop your gaze slightly to create length through the cervical spine, and shift your shoulders over the elbows for strength and heat. Hold this for a few breaths.
The strap should still be pulling tight, keeping the biceps strong. Lift one leg to the sky for an added challenge, hold for a few breaths, and then switch legs. Once you’ve held this pose for about 10 breaths, drop to your knees and take a break.
Benefit: Using a yoga strap in this pose teaches proper alignment, so you know you are doing it correctly. Adding Dolphin to your practice is an excellent strength building pose to help you with arm balances, and eventually inversions like Forearm Stand.
4. Natarajasana or Lord of the Dance Pose
This is an amazing heart opening standing posture that requires balance, strength, and flexibility.
Set-Up: Start by making a small loop with the strap – just enough to get your foot into the strap. Think of it as a horse’s stirrup that you would put your foot in. Starting with the right foot, place the foot in the strap standing strong on your left leg. To help with balance, take your left hand to your hip and set your eyes on something still.
Practice: Once your foot is in the strap, flip your grip so that your elbow is pointing to the sky and the bicep is by the ear. Your right knee should be bent with your toes pointing to the sky, and your right heel pulling toward the right glute, activating your hamstring. From here you’ll notice that as you pull the strap with your hand, the foot moves back and you’re already set up for Dancer’s pose.
Standing tall and keeping your balance begin to lift the right hand overhead as you pull the foot toward the hand. From here, the right thigh should be parallel with the ground and there is a stretch through the quadricep. Bringing your left hand to meet the right on the strap, begin to find a backbend by lifting the heart and walking your hands down the strap toward your foot.
Hold this balancing pose for a few breaths, keeping the glutes engaged to protect your lower back. Leaning forward slightly, keep the heart lifted as the foot gets closer and closer to your hand. Hold this for a few breaths, and then slowly dismantle and switch sides.
Benefit: Using a strap to bridge the gap between your hand and your foot allows you to increase your range of motion, and eventually with practice, losing the strap and being able to grab the foot with your hand.
Practicing with a yoga strap is one of the best ways to increase your flexibility safely. Using a strap helps you find proper alignment, and also helps support balancing postures like Crow, or even Handstand. Your yoga strap can also be a tool for restorative postures and support throughout the entire body.
Make sure you are revisiting these poses regularly, even if it’s just for a few moments, and you will start to see a change. You will continue to deepen your poses and increase your flexibility the more and more you practice. Namaste!
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