While it’s completely possible to practice yoga with nothing more than your own body on the bare Earth, yoga props can make your practice more comfortable and effective. From yoga mats to rugs, blocks to bolsters, there are quite a few useful yoga props commonly used to augment and support the practice of yoga.
The yoga strap is a seemingly basic yoga prop, but what it may lack in complexity, it makes up for in utility.
In this guide, we will cover the basics of the yoga strap, why we use it, and several awesome yoga strap stretches you can try on your own.
We will cover:
- What Is a Yoga Strap?
- Types of Yoga Straps
- Benefits of Yoga Straps and Why We Use Them
- 9 Awesome Yoga Strap Stretches
Let’s get started!
What Is a Yoga Strap?
A yoga strap is a popular yoga prop used to help stretch the body or hold certain poses.
A yoga strap is typically a long, relatively narrow piece of cotton, hemp, or other non-elastic material, shaped somewhat like a belt but without holes. Most yoga straps are between 6-10 feet long (about 1.8- 2.5 meters) and a couple of inches wide.
Some yoga straps are simple lengths of whatever material the strap is made of, while other yoga straps include some type of buckle so that you can connect and attach the two ends of the strap into a loop.
3 Types of Yoga Straps
There are a few different types of yoga straps on the market, differentiated mostly by the presence and type of buckle, if any.
#1: Yoga Straps Without a Buckle
Some yoga straps rack a buckle or ring altogether. These straps can be helpful for beginners looking for something really simple and comfortable, with no chance of pinching, injury, or noise, but they cannot be formed into a closed loop.
#2: D-Ring Yoga Straps
D-ring yoga straps have a metal ring that resembles an uppercase letter “D.” Yoga straps with a D-ring buckle allow you to adjust the strap when it’s in a loop to make it longer or shorter, or you can just make a small loop at the end (like a lollipop) for certain asanas.
For example, you might loop the strap around your foot but then keep a long tail to help hold your foot up in Dancer’s Pose.
#3: Yoga Straps With Buckles
Yoga straps may come with a plastic buckle of sorts, often either a cinch buckle or a pinch buckle. Yoga straps with a cinch buckle are popular because they can be easily adjusted with one hand, meaning you can customize the length while holding a pose.
Yoga straps with a pinch buckle are also easily adjustable and can be snapped into the length you want quickly. However, plastic buckles are less durable than metal D-rings.
5 Benefits of Yoga Straps and Why We Use Them
So, what are the benefits of using yoga straps? What are yoga straps used for?
Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules regarding how you can or can’t use a yoga strap. It’s your yoga practice, so do what works for you. That said, yoga straps are typically used for stretching.
The primary benefits of yoga straps include the following:
#1: Yoga Straps Can Help You Stretch
Arguably, the most common use and probably greatest benefit of using a yoga strap is that they can help you deepen stretches, which can promote better flexibility and range of motion over time.
For example, consider Seated Forward Bend Pose (Paschimottanasana). If you have difficulty reaching your feet or ankles comfortably, you can place the center of the yoga strap around your feet and hold onto each end of the strap.
Then, you have to apply tension to deepen your stretch to fully sink into the pose.
#2: Yoga Straps Make Poses More Accessible
Sometimes, it’s hard to hold a certain yoga pose or maintain proper alignment, particularly if you’re inflexible or have some type of muscle tightness or joint stiffness.
In this way, yoga straps make yoga more accessible.
Using a yoga strap that is at least 6-8 feet long (1.5-2 meters), can effectively lengthen your arms, which can make it possible to hold certain poses or stretches without compromising your form.
Returning again to the example of Dancer’s Pose, if your hips and back are too tight to be able to hold your ankle while extending your leg up and back behind your body, you can loop a yoga strap around your foot to help guide your foot up into positions without straining your shoulders or back by trying to reach back with your hand directly.
#3: Yoga Straps Can Help You Balance
Yoga straps can be very beneficial for beginners who want to attempt more advanced yoga poses. As mentioned, yoga straps can be useful when you lack the flexibility you need to hold a certain pose.
Yoga straps can also assist your balance. You can modify certain poses with the use of a yoga strap to make them easier to hold.
For example, you can stand on a yoga strap and hold each end of it when performing the Warrior poses to help you stay upright without falling.
#4: Yoga Straps Can Help You Strengthen Your Muscles
Although not necessarily a typical use for a yoga strap, you can use a yoga strap to provide additional resistance to help strengthen your muscles.
Because yoga straps are made from materials that do not stretch, you can pull them taut and maintain tension on the yoga strap during isometric holds.
To strengthen your scapular stabilizers, rhomboids, trapezius, rotator cuff, and deltoids, for example, you can grab onto a yoga strap with both hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart and then pull outward with each hand, maintaining tension on the yoga strap for 30 seconds.
#5: Yoga Straps Can Improve Your Posture
Let’s face it: most of us have pretty poor posture these days. Between hunching over our phones all day or slouching when sitting at a desk, it can be difficult to maintain proper posture, even while practicing yoga.
You can use a yoga strap to help guide your shoulders back into ideal posture during certain yoga asanas. By looping the yoga strap over your shoulders and under each armpit with a little tension, you can help retract your shoulder blades in better alignment.
9 Awesome Yoga Strap Stretches
There are nearly a countless number of stretches you can do with a yoga strap, but here are a few of our picks for the best yoga strap stretches:
#1: Shoulder Opener With a Yoga Strap
This yoga strap stretch opens up your shoulders and chest, which can help improve your posture.
- Hold the stack with both hands spaced slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Extend your elbows to straighten your arms out in front of your body.
- Keeping your elbows straight, slowly raise your arms up overhead until you feel a good stretch in your shoulders and chest. You can even extend them behind your head to deepen the stretch.
#2: Standing Side Stretch (Parsva Tadasana)
You can stretch your obliques, which are the muscles on the sides of your abs, with this yoga strap stretch.
- Once your arms are overhead from the shoulder opener stretch, simply bend your torso towards one side, bringing your arms towards the side you are bending towards.
- Hold for 3-7 breaths and then return to center.
- Repeat on the other side.
#3: Boat Pose (Navasana)
You can use your yoga strap in this pose to help you maintain proper alignment and strengthen your core.
- Simply hook the center of the yoga strap around the bottom of your feet and use each hand to grab one end of the strap. Slowly sit back into position while lifting your legs up.
- Push through your feet to fully straighten your legs, enabling less flexible yogis to achieve perfect posture in this difficult core-strengthening yoga pose.
#4: Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana)
This yoga strap stretch will help build strength, flexibility, and balance.
- Make a small loop at the end of your yoga strap and secure it around your foot.
- Slowly lift the leg in a straightened position until it is at a 90° angle relative to the rest of your body.
- Use tension on the yoga strap to guide your leg up, and to maintain it in position once you feel a good stretch.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then slowly return to the starting position.
- Switch sides.
#5: Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana)
Many people lack the flexibility in the hips and spine to fully achieve Dancer’s Pose, so a yoga strap can lengthen your arm reach to guide your rear foot up into place.
- Make a small loop at the end of your yoga strap and secure it around your foot.
- Gently move into the pose while holding onto the other end the strap overhead with both hands.
- Walk your hands down the strap until you find a length that has tension for a good hip stretch.
#6: King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
A good yoga strap stretch is One-Legged King Pigeon Pose with the yoga strap looped around the foot behind your body like with Dancer’s Pose. Using a yoga strap will deepen the stretch and open your chest, shoulders, groin, and hips.
#7: Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)
Cow Face Pose can be difficult if your shoulders are tight, so this yoga strap stretch makes this pose more approachable.
- Hold the strap behind your back while you perform the pose to help get each arm into proper alignment.
- Putting tension on the yoga strap will help deep in the stretch.
#8: Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Bound Angle Pose is a great hip opener yoga pose. Using a yoga strap can deepen the inner thigh stretch.
- Attach the ends of your yoga strap so that you form a loop.
- Secure the loop around your sacrum and underneath your feet.
- Tighten the loop to draw your legs closer to your body.
- You can even recline your torso to further deepen the stretch.
#9: Seated Forward Bend Pose (Paschimottanasana)
One of the best yoga strap stretches is Seated Forward Bend Pose. This relaxing pose stretches your hamstrings, and with the addition of the yoga strap, you can also get a good stretch in your calves, Achilles tendons, glutes, and ankles.
Place the center of the strap around the balls of your feet and grab onto each end of the strap with tension until you feel a comfortable stretch.
Do you suffer from muscle tension? Check out our guide to yoga for tight quads here.