Yoga – Straps and Stretching

Yoga – Straps and Stretching

If you’re new to the prop party, welcome! Yoga props are an excellent way to take your practice to the next level, loved by beginner and intermediate students alike. Yoga straps, specifically, are unmatched when it comes to lengthening and stretching the body as well as working on mobility, strength, and balance 

What is a strap and is it right for me? 

A yoga strap is a long fabric belt that helps bridge the gap between body parts so that you don’t have to compromise the integrity through the spine and you’re able to move deeper without risking injury. When choosing your strap, make sure it’s at least 7 feet long and has the ability to loop for more practice options, like the Evoke Webbing Strap or the Evoke Guided Yoga Mat Carry Strap. The Evoke Wedding strap has a metal ring which creates a loop that allows you to hook your limbs in for optimal grip and support.  

The best way to showcase the many uses and benefits of a yoga strap is to dive in with some examples of how it helps maintain alignment, improves flexibility without risk of overextending, and how it can help increase mobility and strength, especially in the shoulder region.  

Yoga Strap for Flexibility  

Seated Forward Fold – One of the best hamstring stretches is commonly compromised due to poor alignment. You do not need to grab your feet, especially not at the expense of rounding your spine. Instead, get a deep, safer stretch by using your yoga strap. On its longest setting wrap the strap around the balls of your feet and sit up tall, grabbing the ends of the strap in each hand. Your shoulders should be over your hips and arms should have a slight bend in them. You can even sit on a folded blanket to lift your hips a little more if legs are super tight. The intention is to tilt the pelvis forward as you gently tug on the strap, getting a deep stretch through the backs of the legs without compromising the integrity in the spine. 

Bound Butterfly (upright or reclined) – Open those inner thighs by looping your strap around the hips and feet, using the buckle to bind the strap. Tighten to your liking, bringing the feet as close in towards your groin as feels good. The bound strap supports your back to maintain good posture and works to pull your heels in close to deepen the stretch and increase flexibility. Option to stay lifted or try reclining back for a more restorative shape.   

Side Angle Shoulder Bind – enhancing a pose, such as Side Angle, with a shoulder bind requires a lot of flexibility and the right amount of mobility work to get you there. A strap can help you on your journey, giving you the benefits of the deep hip and shoulder stretch without sacrificing alignment or risking injury. Grab a strap, weave it under your bent knee and reach the other arm around-and-back to grab it. Think about trying to pull the strap apart and back, using this movement to turn the torso up towards the sky and move the shoulders back in space. Eventually, play with walking your hands closer and closer together along the strap. 

Reclined Leg Stretch – This pose is amazing when your legs are tight, especially from running or walking long distances. Lay down and wrap the strap around the ball of one foot. Extend that flexed foot towards the sky, keeping your spine long and grounded. Gently pull the leg back behind you to get a stretch along the hamstring. Tune the depth to what you need and breath through it. Next, take the strap into one hand and start to open the leg out to the side, stretching the back and inner leg. Your elbow can ground for more support as you explore depth. Finally, bring the leg across the body, with the strap transferring into the other hand, and feel a stretch on the outer IT Band. Don’t twist through the spine, instead make this a smaller movement that only targets the outer leg, the hip should barely lift. 

Yoga Strap for Alignment and Balance  

Warrior 3 – Yoga straps can help find alignment like Warrior 3, working to keep your shoulders back and away from your ears and creating a long line from the crown of the head to the bottom of the extended foot. Try stepping on the strap, holding the ends in both hands with arms straight, and pull against the strap as you kick the foot into it and float forward. You don’t need to be perfectly parallel to the ground, just focus more on neutral level hips and a lifted chest. Feel that teeter-totter sensation as you play with balance. 

Dancer Pose – An advanced posture that encompasses balance and flexibility in the upper back and shoulders. Use the strap by creating a loop for your foot. Drape the strap over your shoulder with the knee bent and the top of the foot hanging in the support hammock. With both hands overhead, grabbing the long end of the strap, begin to pull it up and towards you, lifting your back leg higher.  Keep your chest open, shoulders back, and play with balance as you lift that back leg any amount, stretching the quad and hip flexor. 

Hand to Big Toe Pose - Give your body the space and length it needs when it comes to this balancing shape. Few of us can grab our big toes without rounding our back and shoulders, so instead lean on the prop to keep alignment through the spine and still gaining flexibility and working on core strength and balance. 

Yoga Strap for Mobility and Strengthening  

Warm up the shoulders: Focus some attention on those shoulders with a mobility warm up routine using the strap!  

  • Start by pulling against the strap out in front of you at shoulder height, adjusting the length as needed, and start to explore your range of motion by bringing the arms up overhead and down towards the hips. Notice when the arms lift, at what point do your shoulders shrug towards your ears? Stop before that point, learning where your mobility limit is (as you progress in your practice see how this changes). 
  • Now, bring the strap behind you, widening your hands, and repeat the same idea moving down towards the low back and up overhead. Bend the elbows as needed to prevent overextension.
  • Shoulder + Triceps Stretch: Finally, use the strap to bind behind the back, opening the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Pull in opposite directions to keep strap taught and back engaged.

Chaturanga - keeping your elbows by your side when lowering down through chaturanga takes a lot of strength. Help build that muscle memory and challenge yourself by binding a strap around your upper arms (just above the elbows) ensuring that the arms are only shoulder distance apart. As you practice lowering into your chaturanga, feel the triceps pushing against the strap, unable to splay out to the sides. If this is too much, simply hold a forearm plank in this same bind and start to feel what it’s like to activate the arms and hold them in place. It’s a great way to develop strength.

Warrior 2 & Triangle – spice up your vinyasa flow routine using the strap to strengthen and lengthen the body. Try flowing between Warrior 2 and Triangle pose while holding the strap in both arms, keeping tension along the strap at all times. In Warrior 2, the strap comes behind your head and guides your arms to be level with shoulders. In Triangle, bring the strap in front of your face, pulling down with one arm and up with the other as the shoulders stack and core engages. A few times back and forth and you’ll be feeling the burn. 

Boat Pose – Many struggle to keep their back tall while at the same time extending their legs, mostly due to lack of core strength and the balance it requires, which can trigger back pain. Best way to work on this? You guessed it; grab a strap. Loop it around your feet, creating a pull and push sensation that helps keep you balanced as you lean back and extend your legs. Use your arm strength to keep the chest proud and spine tall, all while challenging your core muscles.  

There are a hundred more examples of how amazing this seemingly simple prop is! So, if you’re looking for something that’ll help you stretch deeper, gain better alignment, and play with new advanced postures, then it’s time you started practicing with a strap.  

Author: Madison Fruitman, Certified Yoga Instructor 


Instagram: @madisonfruitmanyoga 

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Consult a physician prior to commencing an exercise program. If, at any time during exercise, you feel faint, dizzy, or experience pain, stop and consult your physician