A yoga strap offers a wide variety of benefits to your yoga practice. For restorative poses, a yoga strap offers support for your body to deepen into the relaxation benefits of a pose. A strap can help you safely increase your range of motion and reduce your risk of injury.
While often seen as a means to improve mobility, a yoga strap can also help you build strength. Check out the following poses to learn how to incorporate a strap into your practice.
Gomukhasana — Cow Face Arms Pose
Try a strap with this pose to help improve the mobility in your shoulders. Practicing this pose with a strap will also help you progress towards a full bind without prop assistance!
Begin in a comfortable seated position. Place the strap in your right hand. Keeping the strap in your hand, lift your right arm and bend your elbow as though you wanted to touch the back of your neck. Let the strap fall down your back.
Place your left hand behind your back as though you are reaching for your lower back. Grab onto the strap. Begin walking your hands closer together until you find a comfortable stretch.
Sit up tall and press the back of your head into your right arm. Keep your abdomen engaged and hold for 5 breaths before you switch sides. Practice this pose regularly and eventually you will notice the space between your hand decreasing until you bind your hands.
Janu Sirsasana — Seated One-Legged Forward Fold Pose
Adding a strap to this pose makes hamstring stretching more accessible to those with limited mobility. Practicing Janu Sirsasana with a strap also helps you keep a neutral lumbar spine to avoid injury.
Begin seated in the middle of your mat. Bend your right knee and place the sole of your right foot on your inner left thigh. Keep your left leg straight.
Loop your strap around the sole of your left foot so you can hold onto each end of the strap with your hands, Engage your abdomen and sit up tall. Shift your weight to the front of your sit bones.
Begin hinging at your hips as you bend over your left leg. As you bend, keep your shoulder blades engaged together and lead with your chest,
Walk your hands down the strap until you find a comfortable stretch in your left hamstring. Hold for 5 breaths, then carefully rise out of the pose. Repeat on your second side.
Paschimottanasana — Seated Forward Fold Pose
This challenging hamstring stretch can be more accessible with the assistance of a strap. For those with back pain, using a strap can help you maintain a neutral lumbar spine so you focus on stretching your hamstrings instead of rounding your lower back.
Sit on your mat with your legs straight in front of you. Loop your strap around the soles of your feet and hold the ends of the strap with your hands.
Sit up tall and engage your abdomen. Relax your shoulders away from your ears. Shift your weight to the front of your sit bones.
Begin to lean your body forward, folding your body over your legs. As you bend deeper into the stretch, walk your hands further down the strap.
Feel a stretch along the back of your legs. If you feel any pain behind your knees, bend your knees slightly. To reduce pain in your lower back, lessen the degree of stretch and tighten your abdomen. Hold for 5 breaths.
Baddha Parsvakonasana — Bound Side Angle Pose
Adding a strap to this pose can help you improve your shoulder and upper back mobility so you can progress your way into a full bind!
Begin standing at the top of your mat. Step your left foot back about 4 feet, placing your left foot parallel to the back edge of your mat. Once in position, hold up your arms and adjust your feet so your ankles align underneath your wrists. Hold the strap in your left hand.
Keep the back leg straight and bend into your front right knee. Aim towards bending the right knee 90 degrees.
Hingle your body forward so you can rest your right elbow on your right thigh. Move your left hand behind your lower back. The strap should be hanging behind your hips.
From the front of your leg reach your right arm underneath your right leg and try to grab onto the strap. Walk your hands closer together down the strap until you feel a comfortable stretch.
Keeping the bind with the strap and your abdomen engaged, focus on opening up the front of your chest. Create an action like you are twisting your chest up to the sky. You will feel your legs and abdomen strengthening, as well as a stretch across your shoulders and chest.
Hold the pose for 5 breaths, then repeat on your second side.
Bakasana — Crow Pose
Straps aren’t just used to improve mobility. Try a strap in this pose to help boost your shoulder stability. With consistent practice with a strap, eventually you will increase your strength to practice this pose without a prop!
Take your strap and slide it through the rings to make a loop. The loop should be shoulder-width in length. Make sure to lace the strap through the rings so it is tightly fastened and will not slip.
Slide the loop around your upper arms so both arms are on the inside of the strap. Stand at the top of your mat. Bend your knees and sink into a deep squat. Squat low enough that you can place your hands onto the mat.
Place your hands shoulder-width apart. The strap should feel tight. If it isn’t, remove the strap and adjust.
Keeping your hands on the ground, bend your elbows so they are at a 90-degree angle. Keep the elbows tight by your side.
Rise up onto your tiptoes and place your knees onto the backs of your arms. If this feels challenging enough, stay in this position and work on building your strength here.
To continue on, shift your weight into your hands and stack your elbows on top of your wrists. Engage your belly, and begin lifting one foot off the mat. If you still feel stable, lift the other foot.
The strap is meant to help provide stability in your shoulders and mid back. After you practice with the strap, see if you can engage the same muscle groups and give it a try without! Aim to hold this pose for 5 breaths.
Prasarita Padottanasana — Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold Pose
Use a strap to help stretch your shoulders and move deeper into this hip opener!
Begin standing at the top of your mat with your strap in hand. Step your left foot towards the back of your mat, then turn both feet so they are parallel with the top edge of your mat.
Take the strap behind you and grab onto the strap with both hands. Keep about one foot of space between each hand. Press the strap behind you and feel your chest opening.
Begin hinging at your hips into a forward fold. As you fold, keep holding onto the strap and reach your hands to the sky. You will feel a stretch in your hamstrings, inner thighs, and shoulders. Hold for 5 breaths.
Marichyasana I — Bound Forward Fold Pose
Binds can be challenging to work into, but can feel so good once achieved! Use a strap in this challenging forward fold to help you bind and improve your shoulder flexibility.
Begin seated at the back of your mat. Lengthen your legs out in front of you and place the strap in your left hand.
Bend your right knee so the sole of your foot is on the mat and your knee is pointing to the sky. Reach your left hand and strap behind your lower back. Try to toss the loose end of the strap towards the pinky side edge of your right foot.
Nestle your right shoulder onto the inside of your right knee. Keeping your arm in front of your right shin, reach your right hand back towards your right hip. You should be able to grab onto the strap with your right hand now.
Once both hands are connected to the strap, use the strap to walk your hands closer together. Pause when you feel a comfortable stretch.
Keeping your bind, sit up tall and engage your abdomen. Begin to hinge at your hips. Lead with your chest as you drape your body over your left leg. Feel a stretch in your shoulders and left hamstring.
Hold for 5 breaths and then repeat on your second side.
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana — Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose
Utilizing a strap in this pose will help build stability and balance in your legs, as well as flexibility in your hips and inner thighs.
Begin standing at the top of your mat. Loop your strap so you have a small circle at one end. Place your right foot into the small loop and keep the other end of the strap in your right hand.
Place your left hand on your left hip (or a chair for balance) and engage your abdomen. Pull your right knee to your chest. Keeping the knee up as high as you can, begin opening up your hip so the knee is on the right side of your body.
Begin straightening out the right leg. This is where the strap comes in handy. As you straighten the leg out, straighten your right arm. Adjust your hand placement so both your arm and leg can be straight.
Now stand up tall and focus on balancing on your left leg. Feel your left hip strong and stable and you take 5 breaths. Repeat on your second side.
Supta Padangusthasana — Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose
A strap can help you improve your flexibility and enhance the relaxation benefits this pose has to offer.
Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on your mat. Lift up your right foot and place it on the middle of your strap. Hold onto the ends of the strap with each hand.
Straighten your right leg so the sole of your foot points towards the ceiling, Straighten out your left leg, keeping your left foot in line with your left hip.
Relax your shoulders, face, and jaw. Close your eyes and enjoy this restorative hamstring stretch for 8 breaths. Repeat on your second side.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana — King Pigeon Pose
This challenging pose takes diligent practice. Using a strap can help you progress your hip and shoulder mobility as you gradually work your way into King Pigeon.
Begin in pigeon pose with your right shin forward. Create a loop with your strap. The loop should be about 1 foot long, and make sure that the loop is through both rings so it is secure.
Place the strap in your left hand. Reach the loop back towards your left foot, placing the foot in the loop. Pull the strap back towards the top of your mat, bending the left knee in this movement. Face your left elbow towards the top of your mat, and your hand towards the back.
Engage your belly and raise your torso into an upright position. Reach your right hand back over your right shoulder to grab onto the loop so both hands are now on the strap. Adjust the strap loop wider if needed, or for more of a mobility challenge, make the loop smaller.
Feel a deep stretch in your left quadriceps and right hip. Hold for 5 breaths and then repeat on your second side.
A strap is a helpful prop for students of all skill levels. With diligent practice a few days per week, you will see improvements in your flexibility and stability.
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Having been a teacher’s assistant at over 50 yoga teacher trainings worldwide, Olivia May has a firm grasp on the fine art of yoga and meditation. In her work, she carefully reflects on a vast expanse of knowledge to help others find peace in both body and mind.