Deepen Your Practice: 10 Ways to Use a Yoga Strap
Happy Monday, loves! Another weekend flies by... I feel like life is moving in hyper-speed. I've been making a conscious effort to slow down a bit, and really enjoy where I am at this moment in my life, instead of trying to rush rush rush and cram everything in.I'm creating s p a c e. With that said, my muscles are super sore from boxing and bootcamp classes last week, so I decided to whip out THE STRAP.
I am a big believer in utilizing yoga props to deepen your asana practice. I think sometimes there is a negative connotation around yoga props, as it's often referred to as a 'modification' (another word I personally avoid using as a yoga instructor). Think of it more as an option. In the enormous world of yoga, there are endless options, choices, and opportunities to focus your energy on your own personal practice. Yoga props are here to help you increase flexibility, stabilize joints, and create space where needed.
To get started, this week I'm focusing on one of my favorite tools - the yoga strap:
10 Ways to Use a Yoga Strap to Deepen Your Practice
#1 | Side Stretch
Simple, yet effective. I love a good side stretch, especially since I'm hunched over my computer most of the day. Shoulders tend to collapse and tighten up towards the ears, so the strap helps keep the shoulders open, so you can really get into your side body and feel your ribs open and expand.
Challenge: Try keeping your hips grounded and level as you stretch each side - it's harder than it seems. Our bodies have a natural tendency to shift weight over to the opposite side. Engage your core, elongate your spine, root down through your seat, THEN stretch over to one side.
#2 | Gomukhasana Arms / Cow Face Pose(haha)
This Sanskrit name always makes me laugh. You'll find that this bind might be challenging on one side more than the other. I used to have way more flexibility in this posture, but my shoulders have become more tense (girl needs to relaaaax)! The strap gives me a little extra length to play with and my triceps reap the same benefits. Eventually (with practice), my hands should be able to inch closer and closer togther on the strap until they finally clasp! #PracticeMakesProgress
#3 | Baddha Konasana / Bound Angle Pose
Probably one of my favorite postures of all time. First, make a loop with the strap and position it around your sacrum and underneath the feet. The tighter the strap, the closer your legs will be to your body. The strap supports the sacrum and the outer thighs, so you can comfortably release your weight into the straps and let gravity pull you deeper and deeper into the stretch.
I quite frequently lay in bed like this, because I love, love, love hip openers. As women, we hold a lot of tension and emotions in our hips... you might have heard the saying that hips are " the junk drawer of emotions", perhaps? Read this article if you're curious. I straight up broke down into tears during a yin yoga class in Nicaragua when we practiced a deep hip opening sequence dedicated to the raging goddess Kali....long story! Ask me about it sometime...
#4 | Shoulder Opener
The key to this stretch is to relax the shoulders aways from the ears and position the hands wide enough, so you can move the strap forwards and backwards without bending your elbows. Take it slow, and do not force anything. The juiciest moments of this pose are felt more deeply in slow-mo.
#5 | Lying Leg Stretch
Classic and oh so necessary. Make a large loop with your strap and place it right where your bra strap usually sits. Tighten or loosen the strap to a point where you can straighten the leg, flex the foot, and gently pull the leg closer to you. I recommend holding this pose for a good 8-10 breaths, or even longer if it feels good.
#6 | Outer Hip Release / Supine Twist
So much yes. Release those hips, because girl knows you need it. If you're coming from the lying leg stretch, just shift the leg out to the side. It. Feels. INCREDIBLE. Your quads, hamstrings, and outer hips will thank you. I could stay in this pose all freakin' day. Look at my face. That is the face of a blissed out yogini. If you're stretching out the right leg, remember to stay grounded through your left side as well.
When you're ready, bring the leg across the body to the opposite side for a supine twist. This pose rings out the spine (and digestive system), releasing the back.
#7 | Pigeon with Quad Release
I don't often attend yoga classes that reserve time for a quad release. Anyone else feel this way? Guess it depends on where you go. I'm personally going to make sure to include this in my classes, because it feels damn good. SO, make your way into pigeon. Make a smaller loop with your strap, and hook it around the top of your foot where your shoelaces are. Take the long end of the strap over your shoulder.
Option: If you want an even deeper quad stretch, reach the arm with the strap up to the sky, elongating through the spine, and leading with the heart as you slowly lower your body down to the ground. Completely surrender to gravity with both arms reaching straight out in front of you and drawing your heel in towards your bootay.
#8 | Eka Pada Rajakapotasana / One-Legged King Pigeon
To access this pose, it requires not only openness in the chest, shoulders, and hips, but also flexibility in the back. This is a very challenging pose, and it can certainly feel unattainable when your arms feel so far from your foot. The strap is the ultimate tool to help you grow your flexibility into such a pinnacle pose. As you keep practicing, you will be able to grab further down the strap until one day you feel your foot... and maybe one day your foot will feel your HEAD! #Goals
#9 | Bakasana / Crow Pose
If your elbows tend to shoot out to the sides in crow pose, consider using a strap to keep it tucked in. Your elbows should be within shoulder width distance. The strap will activate against your biceps, so you can focus on tucking in your tummy and lifting off into a beautiful crow.
#10 | Natarajasana / Full Dancer Pose
This is a wonderful way to practice your stability on one foot while suspending your leg in a strap. I find it much harder to balance with a strap in dancer than without one, to be honest. To try this pose, make a small loop and position the strap around your foot as you did in pigeon. Reach your arms up and back, holding the long end of the strap and tuck the elbows in and up to the sky. Walk your hands down the strap, shortening the distance.
Phewwww - There are so many ways to use a strap, so I hope this was informative! Straps are relatively inexpensive (around $10), and I recommend getting at least a 10ft strap, so you have enough length to experiment with. I purchased mine through Gaiam. I generally recommend this brand for yoga blocks, too. Hint hint... Look out for another 'How To' focusing on yoga blocks - subscribe to my blog below to get it delivered straight to your inbox!
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