Embarking on your first yoga class, void of that nasty ego, takes both courage and patience. For if you can't touch your toes, most often your mind won't let you forget it. Luckily, western yogis incorporate props such as blocks, bolsters and straps into their teachings. Unlike yoga purists, these instructors skirt structured tradition by adapting their methods to accommodate modern bodies. Props like yoga straps aid the stiff body in performing otherwise unobtainable poses. Over time, the use of straps during class will help improve your flexibility, making it possible to reach your toes unassisted.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Sit on the mat with your legs together stretched out in front of you. Flex your feet toward the sky.
Place your hand under one side of your buttocks and rotate the flesh outward and up. Repeat on the other side to remove the curve in your lower back and anchor your sit bones into the floor.
Fold your strap in half and grab either end. Loop the middle of the strap over the arches of your feet.
Inhale as you hinge from the hips and bend forward with a flat back. Exhale and hold.
Inhale and sit up. Exhale.
Adjust your hands by walking them up the strap and closer to your feet, as your body allows. Repeat the pose.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
Lay the yoga strap perpendicular to your mat toward the back. Pull the ends toward the front of your mat to form a "U."
Lie down on your stomach with your ankles on top of the strap where it intersects the mat. Place your hands by your side.
Reach behind you and grab each end of the strap. Flex your feet. Inhale.
Exhale and walk your hands up the strap and closer to your feet while bending your knees. Keep your knees hip-width throughout the pose and your feet flexed with tension on the belt.
Inhale and move your feet away from your buttocks while lifting your torso off the floor. Use the strap as resistance to press your shoulder blades into your back and open your chest. Hold.
Exhale and release. Repeat the pose.
- It is important to have a curve in your lower back when practicing the seated forward bend. If your hamstrings are tight and your back is rounded, sit up on a folded blanket to avoid back strain.
- It can be awkward to locate your strap the first time you practice bow pose. So instead of reaching blindly behind you, look over your shoulder and reach back with one hand at a time to grab your strap ends.
- If you're new to yoga, only practice bow pose with the guidance of an experienced instructor. Backbends can wreak havoc on yoga newcomers if done improperly.
Christina Shepherd McGuire writes articles about adventure sports, fashion, mothering and natural living. Since 2003, her work has appeared in "Action Outdoor and Bike Magazine," "Teton Family Magazine," "The Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine" and several online publications. McGuire holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.