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.
Remember not to get too excited and pull your way into postures with force! Always listen to your body, and let your body open up in its own time.
1. Side Stretch
To stretch the arms, shoulders, and the sides of your body, take a hold of your strap a bit wider than shoulder width. Swaying slowly from side to side, stretching and opening the shoulders and each side of the body.
2. Opening the Shoulders
Take a hold of the strap a bit wider than your shoulders. Bring your arms straight toward the front and slowly back up again, continuing behind you.
This is a powerful way to open the shoulders and make sure the movement stays comfortable. Keep your hands wide enough on the strap, and don't force the arms behind more than feels comfortable.
3. Seated Forward Bend, Paschimottanasana
To open up your hamstrings, place the middle of the strap around the ball of your feet. Hold on to the ends of the strap with your hands and straighten your legs.
Keep space between your pubic bone and navel, and don't round your lower back. Gently pull yourself forward.
4. Bound Angle Pose
For stretching the inner thighs and hips, come to Bound Angle Pose. Make a loop from the strap, and place it around your sacrum and underneath the feet. The tighter the strap, the closer your legs will be to your body. You can also lay down on your back while allowing your hips to open.
5. Reclining Leg Stretch
Start by laying down. Lift one leg, placing the middle of the strap on the ball of your foot. Lift your foot towards the ceiling and slowly start to straighten the leg.
Keep your elbows on the floor, making sure your shoulders are not strained.
6. Extended Hand to Big Toe
Make a loop on the end of the strap and place your foot into the loop.
Lift up the knee, holding on to the strap with the same side hand. Slowly straighten the leg, and use both hands to get into the pose.
Once you feel comfortable, release the opposite hand to your waist, holding on to the strap with one hand.
7. 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.
8. Head-to-Knee Pose, Janu Sirsasana
Start in Dandasana and bend your right leg, bringing the foot close to the left inner thigh. Make a loop on the strap and place it around the ball of the left foot. Hold on the strap, and slowly lower yourself toward the extended leg. Remember, don't pull with force!
9. Cow Face Pose, Gomukhasana Arms
If your shoulders are tight, the full extension of this pose can prove challenging for your arms.
Try holding on to the strap with both hands to stretch your way into the final pose.
10. Half or Full Boat Pose, (Ardha) Navasana
Place the strap under the balls of your feet, holding on to the ends of the strap. Lift up your legs slowly, and make sure your lower back stays extended, not rounded.
Push through your feet to the strap. Keep your knees bent and shins parallel to the floor for a Half Boat Pose, or extend your legs fully (shown in photo) for the Full Boat.
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!