Using a yoga strap is a good way to get some self-help into your yoga practice. No matter what your level of experience is with yoga, a strap can provide useful help on support, alignment, and posture. But strap or no strap, you can start warming-up the muscles and work on your flexibility. Of course, having a strap on hand as you work through the challenge will help build-up your flexibility and offer support.
Shoulder/Triceps/Upper Back Opener
Start by standing tall, feet under hips, your knees soft, hips square. Holding the strap in your right hand, bring your right elbow up so that it is by your right ear, draping the belt behind your back. Reach behind with your left hand, your left elbow at 90 degrees, and grip the belt. The belt should be right along your spine.
First, take the loop of the yoga strap and wrap it around your right foot. Lift that foot up behind you, so that your right heel comes up toward your bum. The yoga strap should drape over your right shoulder so that you are stretching your right quadriceps muscle. Be sure that you’re not arching your back or compressing your spine here, as you pull your foot closer to your bum.
Seated Or Lied Hamstring Stretch
Sit or lie on the floor, bracing your core. It’s important for you to keep your torso as tall as possible, sitting on your sit bones. Now, for some people, this is enough of a stretch. This is called reciprocal inhibition. You can’t have two opposing muscle groups contracted at the same time, and that’s a big trick when it comes to improving your flexibility. From here, just stay still on your sit bones, contracting your quads, and relaxing your hamstring. Maybe this is all you need.
Dancer’s Pose, Natarajasana
Make a loop on the end of the strap, and place your foot in the loop. Stand close to a wall for safety, and bring your hands up while holding the other end of the strap, pointing the elbows toward the sky. Press onto the strap and start walking your hands along the strap, making it shorter.
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend
Stand with your feet wide apart (about 3-4 feet) and parallel to each other. Hinge at your hips and fold with an elongated spine. Place your hands to the blocks or to the ground directly under your shoulders. To deepen the stretch in your hamstrings, bend your elbows back and walk your hands toward the space between your fee. Take 5-7 breaths, then reverse your way all the way up to stand and release the pose.
There are countless ways to use the strap for your advantage. Make sure you have a strap long enough to play with and start exploring different ways to make it a part of your personal practice! They can be done at the gym or while you’re at home watching TV!