Props are often around in yoga but unless instructed to use them we rarely take the option, so in this series of posts on the Yogipod journal I am going to explore the most common used props and give you some ideas of how and when to use them. I’ve already looked at bricks and blocks so for this installment the focus is on the yoga strap.
So what are the most common props in yoga and why should we use them?
The most common props we come across as yoga students are:
- Bricks and Blocks
- Eye Pillows
Why should we use props? In a nutshell they can improve your experience of a pose, whether helping you move a little deeper into the pose or helping you to relax a little more.
After blocks and bricks I would say yoga straps are probably the prop you are most likely to come across in a studio or a gym. If you practice from home they’re also pretty cheap and also super easy to store! No falling over props with this one.
Yoga straps can vary in length and style but they tend to be 1.5m-2m long and made of a cotton webbing with d-rings at the end of them. They again are super versatile, from making it easier to reach your feet to supporting a release in the hips for a restorative position. They can be used to help build strength or help the body relax.
I particularly like to use straps to:
- Lengthen the arms while you lengthen the legs – perfect for lengthening the back of the legs when you can’t reach the foot naturally due to anatomy or tightness. My favourite was to do this is laid on your back, hugging one knee into the chest and then looping your strap over the ball of the foot. Begin to straighten the leg towards the ceiling while keeping the strap in both hands. Let the shoulder blades soften towards the ground and try not to take too much tension into the upper body. You can then gradually make the parts of the strap you are holding shorter as the back of the leg stretches and opens a little more and the leg draws closer in to the body. Don’t hurry this process.
- Open into the chest muscles and shoulders – Sat in any comfortable position hold the strap out in front of you with your arms relatively wide. Hold the strap taught, as if you were trying to pull it apart. As you inhale lift the strap above the head and then take the arms behind you as much as you can, keeping the arms straight. Be aware of trying to keep the ribs tucked in rather than flaring them forwards so the core is engaged. Repeat forwards and backwards slowly feeling the shoulders move a little freer and the muscles of the chest release a little more
- Support the hips in Reclined Butterfly (Supta Baddha Konasana) – Create a large loop with the strap and pop it over your head so you are inside the loop. Letting the strap rest to the back of the hips, bring the soles of the feet to touch and the knees drop out to butterfly pose, hook the loop of the strap around the outside of the feet so the strap now runs inside the hip, around the back and around the feet. Tighten the loop using the d-rings as much as feels comfortable and recline onto a bolster or onto the floor.
There are so many other ways to use yoga straps too, looped around the arms to help in inversions and balances, hooked onto the foot to come deeper in dancers and king pigeon and even tying the legs together in legs up the wall. Which just goes to show instead of there being a why are we using a yoga strap the question should maybe why aren’t we using one?
When practicing question whether using a yoga strap would help you relax into a pose a little deeper or maybe help you breathe softer and longer in a backbend? Would it lessen the impact on your body and help you move into a pose more gently and mindfully?
Often in life and in yoga we want to move from one stage to the next super quickly, forgetting the journey in between. A strap, with its changeable length and uses is a perfect prop to help you to remember and treasure the journey into your practice. It can help to take away that physical and mental grasping of the pose that we so often slip into.
So the next time you wander into class and there is strap there and the teacher is giving you the option to use it, pick it up and give it a go and notice the difference it makes to the nature of your body and your mind.
My yoga strap recommendations
- Don’t feel you have to buy one in particular, for more most things a long scarf or a dressing gown cord will be just as useful as a strap
- If you’re looking to invest I love the quality of this Yogamatters D-Ring Yoga Belt. It’s long enough to be able to loop around you and made of good sturdy cotton. It’s available in plenty of colours too
- If you’re more of a print fiend you can’t go wrong with the printed straps from Yogi Bare. This tropical print one is my favourite