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You might have seen yoga straps at your local yoga studio next to the yoga blocks and cushions and wondered what you need them for. Yoga straps are an excellent tool to make stretches safer and more accessible and can be super handy as a beginner. I personally always practice with a yoga strap to advance my practice and make it more enjoyable. But what exactly is a yoga strap good for?
What are the Benefits of Using a Yoga Strap?
Props can be so helpful to a yoga practice, and can come in handy at all levels, not just beginners! Here are the different ways using a yoga strap in your practice can help you:
1. Correcting alignment
This is definitely the biggest advantage of a yoga strap for me. Some people are so focused on getting into a certain pose that they completely neglect correct alignment. You see a lot of students with rounded backs in forward folds, or wrong hip alignment in poses like mermaid pose. That’s because it takes some time to adapt the “yoga mentality” of not pushing too hard and listening to your body.
We always try to push ourselves to our limits in any sport, so it is only natural that we would approach yoga with the same mentality in the beginning. The problem is that wrong alignment can be quite dangerous and lead to back pain or a general feeling of un-wellness – the exact opposite of what we’re trying to achieve.
A yoga strap allows us to practice poses with correct alignment without the risk of injury.
2. Advancing your practice
As mentioned before, this shouldn’t be the main aim of your yoga practice but mastering a new pose can be motivating and make us feel good about our practice and grateful for the things our body can do. By using a yoga strap we can access poses that were impossible for us before, and get a feeling of how the pose should feel.
My foot doesn’t touch my head yet in King Pigeon, but I now know how my hips and arms should be aligned. I just keep on practicing the pose with a yoga strap until I’ll eventually feel ready to remove the strap and safely touch my toes to my head. The same goes for any other pose – if you keep on practicing it with a strap and the correct alignment, you’ll eventually get to a point where you can execute the full pose without props.
Yoga straps aren’t only for beginners. There are always ways of improving your alignment, no matter how advanced your practice is. They are especially great for beginners because they allow you to get a feeling of how correct alignment should feel, but we all have tight areas despite months or years of practice, so don’t be shy to grab a strap no matter what level!
3. Deepening your stretch
Because of the better alignment your stretches will not only feel deeper, but also a lot better. I didn’t know what I was missing out on until l started practicing with a strap! If you don’t have a strap at hand you can also use a towel, a scarf or a belt in the beginning but I recommend getting an actual strap if you should decide to continue your practice with props.
So how exactly should a yoga strap be used?
Before you start practicing with a strap you want to make sure you’re getting the right strap. Get a cotton strap to avoid injuries/cuts. If you’re very tall you might want to consider getting a longer yoga strap.
Then decide if you want a strap with a buckle (see below: how to use a yoga strap with a buckle) or a loop. I personally have a strap with a two sliding loops at both ends – very easy to use, adjustable and also doubles as a Yoga mat carrier (Yoga mat bags can be bulky). Once you’ve found your ideal strap, you can get started!
The Different Ways to Use a Yoga Strap
A yoga strap serves three many purposes: alignment, deepening, and lengthening. These three elements are vital to practicing yoga safely and effectively improving your practice, as well as to getting the most benefit from it.
As mentioned before, a yoga strap can help you correct your alignment. I use straps to correct alignment in essential poses like Chaturanga or Navasana. Having a strap allows you to experience what the pose should feel like. Once you have a feeling of how a pose should be properly practiced, your risk for injury decreases and you’ll find it a lot easier to build up strength to perform the full pose because you can be sure that you’re actually working the right muscles.
Another great benefit of a yoga strap is that it allows you to deepen your stretches like Seated Forward Folds. With a strap you can go deeper in a pose without sacrificing alignment until you will eventually be able to ditch the strap and perform the full pose with correct alignment – great examples are binds or King Dancer.
The last very useful purpose is to avoid compression and reach further in a pose. It might be difficult to reach for your feet in Bow Pose in the beginning. A strap can help you hold onto your feet without compressing (or even damaging) your spine, and your legs have a wider range of motion and can reach higher up.
Hand to Big Toe Pose is another good example: instead of rounding your back and shoulders to reach for your toe you give your body more range of motion by “extending” your arm with the strap – this will eventually also allow you to get rid of the strap and perform the full pose without strain.
Top Yoga Strap Poses for Beginners
You can use a yoga strap in all yoga poses in endless amounts of ways to aid in alignment, depth, and length. We created a list of 18 poses that demonstrate the many different and most common ways to use a strap in different poses.
Deepen + Lengthen
One of the best ways to use a yoga strap is to give you extra length to allow you to deepen into a pose. In order to do this your body needs to be able to relax into the pose to release tension. Below are the different ways to use a strap in poses to deepen in your yoga postures in order to improve flexibility and release tightness and tension.
1. Seated Forward Fold
Seated Forward Fold is a wonderful hamstring stretch, but is so commonly missed out on due to poor alignment. Often people allow their backs to round because they are trying to reach their hands to touch their feet or legs and lack length.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a strap in Seated Forward Fold allows you to practice proper alignment by preventing your back from allowing, therefore allowing for a deeper stretch in your hamstrings.
How to use a yoga strap in Seated Forward Fold:
- Sit down on your mat and bend your knees to place the strap under the balls of your feet.
- Start straightening your legs and flex your feet, exhale and fold over your legs with a straight spine. You really don’t have to go far here, just so that you can feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
- This pose also works for any forward fold modifications like the Head to Knee Pose (folding forward with your left leg straight and your right foot on the inside of your left thigh)
2. Reclined Big Toe
This is the reclined version of the Hand to Big Toe Pose. This provides a deep stretch in the hamstrings, but can be near impossible to practice safely and efficiently if you lack flexibility. Using a yoga strap is very beneficial in this pose.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a strap in Reclined Big Toe gives your arms extra length instead of having to hang onto your leg or foot with your hands, which could cause your back to round or your leg to bend.
How to use a yoga strap in Reclined Big Toe:
- Lie down on your back, bend your right knee to your chest, place the strap under the ball of your right foot and straighten your leg while holding onto both ends of the strap.
- Keep on adjusting the strap until you can lie down comfortably with your shoulders on the ground. Repeat on the other side.
Bow pose is a great chest opener for beginners to prepare themselves for backbends and improve shoulder mobility. But this pose can be very uncomfortable if you are just starting out and have very tight shoulders . Using a yoga strap gives your arms extra length to make the backbend and chest opener more mild.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a strap in Bow gives your arms extra length if you do not yet have enough flexibility to fully reach back towards your feet due to lack of range of motion in the shoulder or chest area. It also makes the backbend much milder and allows your body to gently advance into the bend.
How to use a yoga strap in Bow:
- Come to lie down on your stomach.
- Bend your knees and sling your strap around your ankles, hold on to both ends of the strap and start moving your hands closer to your feet.
- Kick your feet into the strap and lift your knees (and maybe your chest) off the mat.
- You might rock forward and backward a bit if you’re breathing deeply, that is totally fine.
4. Bound Angle
Bound Angle, or Butterfly Pose, is a great hip opener, but can also be challenging to focus on when you are having a hard time maintaining a straight back as well. Using a strap in Butterfly not only supports your back to maintain good posture, but also pulls your heels in closer towards you to deepen the stretch in your hips.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a strap in Bound Angle engages proper alignment by supporting your lower back and also pulls your feet in towards your body, promoting a deeper hip stretch.
How to use a yoga strap in Bound Angle:
- Start in a seated position with your heels touching and sitting with a tall spine.
- Wrap the yoga strap around your back and pull both ends forward towards your feet.
- Loop the strap around your feet and tighten it until you feel a comfortable pull on your heels and lower back.
- Allow your feet to come in towards you to deepen the stretch while supporting your lower back.
5. Seated Side Stretch
One of the best exercises for stretching tight shoulders is Easy Seated Side Stretch. In many cases though, people lack the range of motion in the shoulders and end up collapsing through their chest, minimizing the benefit. Using a strap is a great tool to use to counter this.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a strap in Seated Side Stretch forces your shoulders and chest to open instead of collapsing forward. You can begin to walk your hands in towards each other for a deeper stretch.
How to use a yoga strap in Seated Side Stretch:
- Hold your strap out in front of you with the hands at arm-length distance apart.
- Start lifting the strap over your head and down your back. If you can’t do the full movement without bending your arms, increase the distance between your hands and repeat the stretch until it feels like a comfortable distance.
- If you feel comfortable, begin to bend to the side, keeping your chest lifted and back straight by engaging your core.
6. Legs Up the Wall
Legs Up the Wall is supposed to be a restorative yoga pose, but can be challenging if you find your legs constantly slipping down the wall to the sides. Using a yoga strap gives you the support you need to truly relax into the posture.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a yoga strap provides your thighs with support and keeps them from fall down to the sides, which can be very uncomfortable if you have tight hips. This allows you to completely relax your body into the pose and obtain the full benefits.
How to use a yoga strap in Bound Angle:
- Start with one hip up against the wall, your body turned side ways. Lay down onto your back as you slowly lift your legs up onto the wall, making sure your bottom lands as close to the wall as possible.
- Once your legs are on the wall, take your yoga strap and wrap it around your legs tight enough that your legs are supported, but loose enough for comfort.
- Stay here and relax into the pose, utilizing your breath.
Lacking flexibility and strength in poses can easily cause incorrect alignment while practicing in an attempt to compensate in the posture. Using a yoga strap is a great way tp give your body just enough support in order to practice poses correctly, while still challenging yourself.
If I had a penny for every incorrectly performed Chaturanga I’ve seen I’d be rich – Chaturanga is hard, and people try all sorts of tricks to make it easier, unfortunately at the expense of their posture. Using a yoga strap is a great hack you can use to get your body used to proper alignment.
How using a yoga strap helps: Chaturanga requires upper body and core strength, and many people tend to subconsciously do things to try to make the pose easier, such as splaying the elbows out. Using a yoga strap will keep your arms tucked in towards your sides and allow you to develop the proper strength in order to practice the pose to its full potential.
How to use a yoga strap in Chaturanga:
- Place the strap above the elbows at shoulder width. Keep the strap taut to avoid your elbows collapsing out.
- From Plank position, shift forward before moving down until your chest touches the strap.
- This is how your Chaturanga should feel. If it is too difficult you can always set the knees down but keep your elbows in and your chest moving forward.
In full Boat Pose your back is straight, your legs are lifted and straight and your arms alongside your legs. If you’re having a hard time keeping your legs and your back straight in Navasana it might be due to lacking core strength. A yoga strap can provide you with support.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a yoga strap provides your body with minimal support to balance, while still challenging your core strength. It also promotes proper posture by forcing you to lift through your chest.
How to use a yoga strap in Boat:
- Place your strap under the balls of your feet with your legs bent, hold both ends of the strap.
- Start straightening your legs while keeping your lower back extended.
- Push with your feet into the strap, holding onto it to keep your spine straight.
Hero Pose is one of the most basic beginner yoga poses, but it can actually be very challenging to those with tight quadriceps muscles or tight hips flexors. Using a yoga strap in this pose acts a great guide to promote proper alignment.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a yoga strap in Hero helps keeps the knees together, as often people let their knees fall to the sides or part the legs slightly, minimizing the leg stretch. This is a great way to help you maintain proper alignment.
How to use a yoga strap in Hero:
- Start on your knees with your toes untucked. Take your strap and wrap it around your thighs.
- Part your feet just enough so your seat can sink between them.
- Adjust the strap so it is tight enough to keep your thighs together, and loose enough for comfort.
One of the most common mistakes in Triangle Pose is that the pelvis is tilted and the body is not kept linear. In Triangle Pose, you are supposed to imagine your body to be able to be be placed between two walls. This can be quite challenging when starting out and the back hips naturally comes forward.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a yoga strap on the legs in Triangle promotes awareness towards your pelvis. The strap will come loose if you are tilting your pelvis forward, therefore will help you keep proper alignment.
How to use a yoga strap in Triangle:
- Start with your legs wide apart and feet facing forward, then turn your left foot to face the top of your mat.
- With your legs in this position, wrap your yoga strap so it is around your right foot and comes all the way around your left upper thigh, right at where your leg hinges. Wrap it so it is taught.
- Come into your full Triangle pose by hinging your body over your front leg and lifting your right arm up towards the sky. Pay attention to your strap; if it comes loose, you may be tilting your back hip forward, sacrificing your alignment.
11. Warrior II
In Warrior II, many people face the problem of keeping their arms level with their shoulders. This can easily be solved with the help of a yoga strap.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a yoga strap in Warrior II guides your arms to be level with your shoulders and extend straight out. It also supports them in this position, as many people have an issue with their arms getting tired easily when first beginning their yoga practice.
How to use a yoga strap in Warrior II:
- Start in a wide legged stance, then turn your front foot to the top of your mat to come into legs identical to those of Triangle, but slightly wider.
- Keeping your hips even just as you did in Triangle, bend the front knee, lift your arms, and look forward.
- Grab a yoga strap between your hands behind your back. Lift it up until the strap touches the back of your shoulders, engaging and extending through the arms while doing so.
12. Bind Variation
In certain variations of poses such as Standing Forward Fold or Reverse Warrior, the hands come behind the back for a bind variation in order to get a deeper stretch and open the chest. This can be very difficult to practice without hunching your shoulders if your neck and shoulders are tight.
How using a yoga strap helps: Instead of clasping your hands behind your back and possibly straining a muscle if you have too much tightness, opting for a strap can help you safely take a bind variation without sacrificing your alignment.
How to use a yoga strap in Bind Variations:
- For this bind variation, Standing Forward Fold with a Bind, Start in Mountain Pose and take your strap behind your back into your hands.
- Walk your hands as closely together as is comfortable for you to come into a bind.
- Fold Forward, keeping your strap in place and lifting your arms away from your body.
“Advancing” in yoga poses is a relative term that refers to balance assist, lengthening, and maintaining alignment. The below yoga poses are more advanced poses that all of these characteristics are needed in order to practice safely, and using a yoga strap is a great way to help you do that.
13. Cow Face Arms
Cow Face Arms can be very challenging for people with tight shoulders. To perform the full pose you’d lift your right arm to the sky and bend it to reach down your back, but in many cases, the shoulders are simply not open enough to do this, making it very difficult to safely improve your flexibility to advance into the full expression of the pose.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a strap provides a tool to allow your hands to “connect” and the ability to slowly advance further, testing your limits. This is a great way to release tightness in the shoulders.
How to use a yoga strap in Cow Face:
- Come into a seated position and lift your right arm up towards the sky, holding onto your yoga strap. Bring your left arm behind your back and bend your right arm to meet your left.
- If your hands don’t touch you can hold onto the strap to keep your back straight and your top arm lifted without sacrificing posture to get your hands to interlace.
- Walk your hands towards each other as much as you comfortably can using the strap. Repeat the pose on the other side.
Tree is one of the first balancing postures you learn as a beginner, but can be difficult for those that lack balancing or have tight hips. You never want to rest the foot on your knee, only below or above, so using a yoga strap can be great for support.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a strap not only helps with balance, but can help open up your hip by guiding your foot upwards with traction from the yoga strap.
How to use a yoga strap in Tree:
- Start in Mountain Pose and wrap your yoga strap around your left foot.
- Shift the weight onto your right leg as you use your core and to lift your left leg up and bend it in towards your chest.
- Place your left foot to rest on your right inner thigh by guiding it with your strap. You can also place the foot on the lower leg below the knee and support it with the strap as well.
15. King Pigeon
King Pigeon is a pose many people strive for in their yoga practice, but find it hard to master due to tight quads and skewed alignment once they attempt the pose. Using a yoga strap can help you practice this pose safely in order to advance your practice.
How using a yoga strap helps: This pose requires length and proper alignment. Your yoga strap can give your arms length while also promoting proper alignment in your hips by keeping them square. This allows you to feel out the pose to see how deep you can actually go to bringing your foot and hands towards each other.
How to use a yoga strap in King Pigeon:
- Come into Pigeon Pose. This pose really should only be practiced once you feel completely comfortable in your Pigeon Pose.
- Once you are in Pigeon, lift through your chest, keep your hips squared, and slowly bend your back leg in towards you with the knee touching the ground.
- Take your yoga strap in your hands and lift it up overhead as you bend your arms to bring them backwards towards your lifted foot.
- Loop the strap around your back foot and gently pull in towards your body for a deep quad stretch. Do not bend to the point of pain or discomfort. You can also try to walk your hands backwards using the strap to deepen the backbend.
16. Warrior III
Unsupported Warrior III is a challenging posture as you are hinging forward but also need to keep your chest lifted, while maintaining your balance. Using a yoga strap acts as support so you can focus on alignment, while still challenging yourself.
How using a yoga strap helps: Using a strap in Warrior III allows you to come unsupported by providing traction between your leg and hands, forming one line of energy. This is perfect for those that have difficulty maintaining balance in this pose or tend to collapse through their chest.
How to use a yoga strap in Warrior III:
- Start in Mountain Pose, and place your strap under your left foot, grabbing the strap with your hands behind your back.
- Shift your weight into your right leg, engage your core, and begin to hinge forward until you come to 90 degree angle as you lift your left leg into the air.
- Pull on the strap with your hands as you flex through the toes to help you maintain balance and support proper alignment.
Binds are great shoulder openers and help you deepen a stretch even more, but they require a fair amount of flexibility. Nonetheless many people try to integrate them into the practice (also because they “look cool”) at the expense of correct alignment. A strap can help you get all the benefits of binds and advance your practice without sacrificing your alignment.
How using a yoga strap helps: Instead of having to have the flexibility of being able to clasp your hands, a yoga strap provides you with length and allows you to slowly advance into a bind by being able to walk your hands towards each other using the strap.
How to use a yoga strap in Side Angle Bind:
- Start in Warrior II with your right knee over your right ankle and your foot pointing forwards.
- Your left leg is straight, your foot pointing out to the long side of the mat and your left foot is in one line with your right foot.
- With an exhale bring your right hand down to the inside of your right foot (you can put a block under your hand if you can’t comfortably put your hand down) and lift your left arm up to the sky while keeping your chest open.
- Bend your right arm to reach under your right leg, take the strap in your left hand and reach your left hand with your strap back and over.
- Reach for the other end of the strap with your right hand (you can walk the hands closer together if you feel like you can open your chest more).
- Turn your gaze up and breathe deeply. Repeat the pose on the other side.
People seem to have trouble with Crow Pose for two reasons, they are scared of falling or they lack proper alignment. While you can use a yoga block to assist you in your fear of falling, a yoga strap is the best way to ensure you are practicing the pose properly.
How using a yoga strap helps: Wrapping a yoga strap around your arms stay in towards you, just like in Chaturanga, which is crucial to ensuring success with this pose. You need to be able to squeeze your legs around your arms or rest them on your elbows, which is impossible if your arms are splayed out.
How to use a yoga strap in Crow:
- Start in Malasana Pose, then place your hands in front of you on the ground.
- Wrap your yoga strap around your upper arms , tightening it just enough to keep your arms inline with your shoulders and wrists.
- Keep the strap around your arms as you lift into your Crow Pose to ensure your arms stay in proper alignment.
I hope you enjoyed these ideas on how to use a yoga strap! There are endless amounts of ways to use one, so I hope this gave you a few ideas to take into your own practice, to lengthen, deepen, improve your alignment, and advance your practice :).
How to use a yoga strap with a buckle: A buckle has two compartments. You loop the belt through the second compartment from below first and then loop it through the first from above. Pull it tight.
How to use a yoga strap for posture: The yogi backpack is a favorite in the yoga community and helps keep your back straight and your shoulders down your back. Wrap your strap around the base tip of your shoulder blades. Pull both ends to the front and throw them over your shoulders. Criss-cross them on your back to create an X-shape. Tuck the strap ends under the line under your shoulder blades you’ve created earlier. (If the strap is still too long you can also tuck it in on your back and the pull it to the front to tuck the ends in again).
How to loop a yoga strap: If you have a strap with metal loops instead of a buckle (if you have a strap with a buckle, see the explanation above), put the end of the strap through both metal loops. Then go back through the first metal loop (skip the second one!). Pull the strap flat.
After completing her teacher training in India, Franziska started writing about and teaching yoga while traveling. Having her mat with her always makes her feel more at home, no matter where she is. Yoga has improved her life in many ways, and she’d like to share the numerous benefits of yoga with others.