Loosen tight muscles and relieve pain and tension with these yoga strap-assisted stretches…
Besides a yoga mat and a yoga block, a yoga strap (sometimes called a yoga belt) may be one of the most useful yoga props. A strap is especially helpful for those with limited flexibility, and it can help give you some extra space to practice, while gradually increasing your flexibility over time. A strap is commonly used as a tool in yoga therapy, but yoga practitioners from beginners to advanced can also benefit from the use of this prop when working on tight or restricted areas.
Most yoga straps are quite affordable, and of course, they are small and light, so they can travel with you to yoga class or on the road quite easily.
Here are 3 wonderful ways to use a yoga strap to improve flexibility and give your muscles a lovely stretch:
1. Reclining Dandasana
This strap-supported supine variation is great for stretching tight hamstrings and inner thighs while preventing your back from rounding (as it otherwise might in a standing or seated forward fold).
For reclining dandasana (staff pose), begin sitting on the floor. Make a large loop with your strap. Bring the strap up over your head and slide the back end of the loop down your back so that it’s against the top of your sacrum (you are sitting inside of the loop). Bring the other end of the loop over the arches of your feet. Adjust the strap so that the buckle is not against your sacrum or the soles of your feet. It should be in a place that is easily accessible to you when you lie on your back in case you need to tighten or loosen it.
Lie on your back and aim the soles of your feet skyward for a sustained hamstring stretch. The strap should be buckled snugly with no excess slack, supporting you in the stretch.
Press your sitting bones toward the floor and allow your lower back to curve in slightly, creating a small space between your low back and the floor. Resist the urge to flatten your lower back or to allow your hips to curl up away from the floor.
If you still don’t feel a hamstring stretch, you can draw your feet in a little closer toward you—creating more of an 80-degree angle (rather than a 90-degree angle) between your legs and the floor. Tighten your strap so that it remains taut, and maintain the space between your lower back and the floor.
Hold for 10 breaths.
2. Ardha Parsvottanasana
You’ll need a couple of blocks or a chair for this half pyramid pose variation.
Make a large loop with your strap and from tadasana (mountain pose), step onto it with your left foot so that one end of the loop is right under your left arch. Turn your left foot out slightly, as you typically would for pyramid pose or warrior I. Then step your right foot forward through the loop, so that there is about one leg length of space between your right foot and your left foot, and bring the other end of the loop up and around the top of your right thigh.
Tighten the strap. Keep your left foot pressing into the strap, and hinge forward from the hip crease, bringing your hands onto two blocks or the seat of a chair. Keep your spine long.
The strap helps to draw the front hip back as you stretch your hamstrings—it should feel like you’re giving yourself a manual asana adjustment. It may feel similar to the manual adjustment your yoga teacher gives you when she draws your front outer hip back in this pose.
Remain for five to ten breaths, and then switch sides.
3. Head Hammock
To relax completely, you’ll need at least an eight-foot strap for this one (up to ten feet if you’re over six feet tall).
Make a large loop with the strap. Lying on your back, loop one end of the strap around the occipital ridge of your head (where the base of the head meets the spine), and the other end around the arch of your right foot.
When you straighten the right leg, it should be at about a 90-degree angle to the floor. The other leg should be extended and relaxed on the floor…
Remain for ten breaths and then switch sides.
Read more + see photos of these stretches at YogaInternational.com…