Props are helpful tools in a yoga practice, and in the world of yoga props, the yoga strap ranks in the top three behind the mighty yoga mat and block. Let’s learn how to use a yoga strap and try nine stretches to increase your shoulder and hamstring flexibility.
A yoga strap, also called a yoga belt, makes posture practice safer, more accessible, and more effective regardless of your range of motion and level of ability. The yoga strap can be used in so many ways, from creating more space within certain postures to preventing injury.
If you’d like to teach a full yoga class using a yoga strap, you can find the full resources inside the Yoga Sequencing Society.
Prefer videos? You can see the 9 Yoga Strap Stretches here!
what is a yoga strap
The origin of the yoga strap is said to have come from BKS Iyengar. Some students, visiting his institute in India, arrived with their suitcases bound with belts to keep them from coming apart. Iyengar experimented with the belts using it for a variety of options in asanas.
Today these long, durable bands come in a variety of fabrics, widths, lengths, colors, and with (or without) buckles or cinches. They’re fairly inexpensive, most coming in under $10.
You can use the yoga strap “opened” or buckled to create a loop. Make sure you understand how to properly buckle your belt to prevent it from coming undone, shredding the belt, and to provide a supportive grip.
which yoga strap to use
With some many options, how do you choose a yoga strap? Most studios stock yoga straps, so test out the different styles.
While a strap might not be as personal choice as your mat, you still want it to meet your needs. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing a yoga strap:
- Does the material stay firm and not stretch?
- Is it long enough/ wide enough for what you need?
- Does the material slip when you’re sweaty or burn when it slips?
- Or is the material too rough and rigid?
- Do you prefer a plastic buckle, metal, or a D-ring?
And if you’re unable to purchase a yoga strap, you can try one of these at-home alternatives:
- Towel-make sure it’s long enough!
- Scarf-make sure it won’t tear easily.
- Belt-usually durable, but be careful with the buckle.
- Bathrobe tie-varies in durability.
- Man’s neck tie-same considerations as a scarf.
👇 Get your free Yoga Strap Stretches PDF
BENEFITS OF a yoga strap
Why use a yoga strap? Besides the 2-3 benefits already it mentioned, yoga straps:
1. Help bridge the gaps
When you can’t reach your hands in a bind or touch your toes, the strap adds length and allows you to practice the same posture without sacrificing your alignment and form.
2. Facilitate and deepen stretches
In most cases, a yoga strap “makes your arms longer” which helps you get deeper in a posture. This additional length can prevent rounding your back.
3. Provide support
A yoga strap also provides support in balancing postures. You can gain stability and alignment with the yoga strap when different limbs are doing different things.
👉 All of these lead to the number one benefit of a yoga strap:
4. Prevent injuries
When you maintain the proper form for your body, you no longer have to overstretch, over-twist, or overextend. Yoga straps (all the yoga props, actually) prevent you from forcing your body into a harmful shape.
8 yoga strap stretches
Yoga straps are the perfect way to do shoulder and hamstring stretches with good form regardless of your range of motion.
The following nine yoga strap stretches focus mainly on increasing your “flexibility” in your hamstrings and shoulders. However, there is also a stretch for a balance and a hip stretch.
1. seated forward bend
Seated forward bend provides an incredible stretch for your hamstrings. However, participants often hunch or round in their back because they’re trying to touch their feet or toe and lack the mobility to do so.
When you use a strap in a forward fold, you can keep your back flat and spine lengthened as you hinge forward, increasing the intensity without causing compression in your low back.
2. reclined big toe
Reclined big toe is another great hamstring stretch. However, when you’re less flexible, you my grab your foot with your hands and “hang,” increasing your chances of rounding your back and putting stress on your neck.
When you use a strap during this posture, you “lengthen” your arms and make it possible to keep your back relaxed on the floor.
Wrap your strap around the sole of your foot and grab the ends with your hands. Then gently pull your foot towards the floor, or draw it back toward your face.
3. standing big toe balance
The last hamstring stretch perfect for using a yoga strap is a standing big toe balance also known as hasta padagusthasana.
Like the previous hamstring stretches, it’s easy to round your back while trying to clasp your big toe and maintain your balance, and using a yoga strap will “lengthen” your arms, allowing you remain standing straight.
Loop the yoga strap around the sole of your foot and clasp the ends of the strap, slowly lifting your leg and extending it in front.
4. yoga mudra
Yoga mudra helps open up your chest and the front of your shoulders while increasing your range of motion in your shoulder area.
This posture is usually done by clasping your hands behind your back, but if you struggle to interlace your fingers and/or lift your hands off your back, then a yoga strap will help.
Clasp or wrap the strap around your palms to bring in more space in your shoulders without straining your muscles and joints.
5. shoulder rotations
This shoulder rotation relieves tension and stretches your shoulders, chest, and upper back. This stretch can be performed standing, seated, or kneeling, and you don’t have to wait until a yoga practice to reap the benefits.
To perform this stretch, hold your strap in front of you with both hands wider than your shoulders. Keep your arms straight as you bring the strap up above your head, lower the strap behind your back, then return your arms in front.
6. warrior 1
Warrior 1 offers several opportunities to stretch your shoulder area using a yoga strap.
- Holding your strap in both hands, perform the shoulder rotation explained above.
- Clasp the yoga strap behind your back for yoga mudra.
- Still clasping in yoga mudra, fold forward in a humble warrior.
- Or grasp the strap behind your back in cow face arms.
7. warrior 2
In Warrior 2, you can use a yoga strap to help keep your arms level with your shoulders. The strap also supports your shoulders if you find they tire easily while holding your arms up.
From Warrior 1, hold you strap overhead in both hands. As you transition to Warrior 2 and your arms extend to your side, let your hands glide along the strap behind your back.
8. warrior 3
Warrior 3 is a standing balance that can work well with a yoga strap to provide additional stability. As you hinge forward, the strap helps you keep your balance while also maintaining an aligned form.
Loop the strap around the sole of your foot and hold the ends in your hands slightly behind your hips. As you hinge forward, engage your core, pull on the strap as you flex your foot. The tension in the strap will help prevent you collapsing in your chest.
9. reclined pigeon
Reclined pigeon, also known as figure 4, provides a great hip stretch without the additional stress on the knee joint that many experience in traditional pigeon. However, reclined pigeon has its own obstacles, such as participants not being able to reach their legs or get a decent grip.
The yoga strap to the rescue again!
Loop the strap around the sole of your foot that will be extended, holding on the ends with both hands. Then cross the opposite ankle onto your knee, and gently pull the strap toward you until you have the desired intensity in the hip stretch.
additional yoga strap resources
Interested in teaching an entire class around the mighty versatile yoga strap? When you join the Yoga Sequencing Society, you’ll get an entire class dedicated to this top yoga prop including opening and closing scripts, full posture sequence class, and accompanying quotes and affirmations.
And every month you’re a member, you’ll receive a new themed yoga class plus get instant access to a library of sequences, scripts, and practices.
If you’re more of a DIYer when it comes to planning classes, check out my free Pinterest resource on yoga class scripts.
Or if you tired of the hamster wheel of research, you’ll love The Yoga Teacher’s Ultimate Class Planner filled with hundreds of theme ideas, intentions, and quotes.