If most yoga poses look like contortionist tricks to you, adding a yoga strap to your practice may open up a whole new world of stretch for you. Yoga straps are typically made of soft canvas, about 2 inches wide and 8 to 12 feet long. They add support in some positions, while in others, they act as an extension of your arm or leg. Using a prop for support can allow more of your muscles to release since you won't need to struggle to hold your stretch position.
Advanced yogis perform Reclining Big Toe pose by lying on their back, grasping one big toe with a hand and simply extending their leg toward the sky while still holding their big toe. If that sounds impossible to you, try looping your foot with a yoga strap and then extending your leg toward the sky. Use the strap as an extension of your arms and remember to breathe as you hold this position for up to five minutes and then switch legs. As you hold the pose, you may find that your extended leg gradually comes closer to, or even past, vertical.
Some people find crossing their legs while sitting in a chair quite challenging. That's a sign that you have tight hips and might benefit from Bound Angle pose. Sit on a yoga mat with your legs in a diamond shape. Place the soles of your feet together and open your knees wide. Center your strap at your back waistband, and then wind it over your thighs and secure it under your feet. As you lie back on a bolster, the strap will open your thighs and stretch your deep hip muscles. You can lie in this position for up to five minutes.
Slouching while sitting upright can be a sign of a tight low back. You can release tension here with the Seated Forward Fold pose. Sit on a 2- to 3-inch thick pillow with your legs extended straight forward. Wrap your yoga strap over the soles of your feet and hold the other end in one hand. Round your spine forward to stretch your low back. To increase the stretch, gently pull on the strap to bring your head closer to your knees. Breathe in this position for up to five minutes.
When done incorrectly, some yoga poses can cause more harm than good. Pull too hard in your Seated Forward Fold, and you could accidentally overstretch the ligaments of your sacroiliac joint, which is never a good thing. It's best to learn yoga strap techniques from an instructor so you can discuss how your body responds and how to fine-tune the poses for your needs.
- Yoga Magazine: Reclining Big Toe Pose
- Yoga Journal: Yoga for the Overly Flexible; Judith H. Lasater
Based in Portland, Ore., Christine Binnendyk has written about health topics since 2001. She is the author of the book "Ageless Pilates" and her work has appeared in "SELF" magazine and "Pilates Pro." Binnendyk holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Connecticut and certifications from YogaFit, ACE, IDEA, Oregon School of Massage and the Pilates Studio of New York.