A yoga strap is a popular prop used during yoga practice to help achieve poses that are a bit out of the reach of some. It is particularly useful for beginners who haven’t quite achieved the flexibility necessary to perform a full pose. The yoga strap helps beginners achieve the benefits of a pose and maintain proper alignment.
Using a Yoga Strap
The yoga strap is usually a tightly woven strap with an adjustable buckle at one end. Straps are usually made of cotton or hemp, and have a smooth texture to prevent friction injury to the hands or feet. The strap’s length can be changed with the buckle, or it can be formed into a loop for certain poses. Yoga straps are easily available through many stores and online sites that specialize in yoga, Pilates or meditation supplies.
Common uses of a yoga strap include:
- Wrapping the strap around the feet if you can’t touch your toes in standing forward bend
- Looped around the feet for seated forward bends
- Inserting the arms into the loop to hold them in position for bridge pose or plow position
- Holding the strap in both hands behind the back for certain shoulder stretches
In general, the strap is used to artificially lengthen the arms or legs to bring you into an approximation of a full pose. Straps are handy if you have tight hamstrings or are unable to grasp the feet or otherwise reach your body where it is meant to go in a complex pose.
When choosing a yoga strap, it is best to use one that is made specifically for use in yoga. If a strap is stretchy or can’t be adjusted to hold a stable loop or circle, it could bring your body out of alignment and will diminish the benefits of the pose.
Advantages of a Yoga Strap
Many beginner yoga classes or DVDs include use of a strap to help achieve proper alignment. Without a strap, attempting some of these poses could lead to torn muscles or ligaments. The strap also allows the beginner to get a feel for advanced poses without the frustration of not being able to perform the pose perfectly. The yoga strap is an essential tool for beginners as well as more experienced practitioners who wish to work toward deeper poses or who are moving on to intermediate or advanced practice.
Other commonly used props include bricks, folded blankets and bolsters. All of these items are used to create proper alignment in a pose and to prevent injury. They can help bring poses into your repertoire that would otherwise be difficult or impossible due to lack of flexibility or experience. They can also help work back into advanced poses after injury, such as to the hamstrings.
Many yoga teachers stress the idea of “starting where you are.” This means doing every pose to the best of your personal ability, without making judgments based on comparisons to other practitioners. The yoga strap makes this possible and increases the comfort and effectiveness of a yoga session even if you’ve never done yoga before.