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At the beginning of class, many yoga teachers suggest that students have a strap nearby, “in case they need it.” The subtext is: if you’re not flexible, use a strap as an extension of your arms or legs. Yes, yoga straps offer valuable benefits for those with limited flexibility, but knowing how to use a yoga strap in your practice can also be a great tool for building strength and accessing often-overlooked muscles.
This sequence illustrates some energizing options for incorporating a yoga strap into your vinyasa flow and focuses on increasing mobility in the spine and shoulders. Knowing how to use a yoga strap also increases muscular resistance throughout the core and in the arms, which can improve strength, alignment, and range of motion throughout your entire body.
How to use a yoga strap in your vinyasa practice
Wide-Stance Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Begin by standing tall with your feet about two feet apart for a strong, supportive base. Grasp the strap with both hands at chest height, about one-and-a-half-times wider than your shoulders. Reach the strap overhead with straight elbows, keeping the strap taut. Feel the resistance of the strap between both hands and engage your arm muscles, especially your triceps. Stay in this position for 3-5 breaths.
Side Stretches and Twists in Mountain (Tadasana)
Maintain tension in the strap as you lean into a right side bend. Hold it taut between your hands and keep your top arm engaged as you extend to the right side. Hold for a breath, then side-bend to the left. Hold on each side for one breath cycle. Return to center. To twist, rotate your torso to the right, keeping your hips squared and stable, holding for one breath. Return to center and twist to the left for another breath cycle.
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
From Tadasana with the arms lifted, step your right foot back, grounding through the outer edge of the foot. Press upward with your arms as you bend your left knee into the warrior lunge. Be sure you are not overextend the arms behind your head, but keep the arms in line with your ears so you do not strain your shoulder joints. Hold for 3 breath cycles.
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) Side Stretch
With your left foot forward in Warrior I, bend at the waist, lowering your left hand toward your left hip to stretch through your right side. Maintain tension in the strap with your right hand to counteract the pull of your left hand. Stretch to lengthen both sides while keeping the strap taut. Hold here for 2-3 breath cycles. Return to Warrior I.
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) with a Twist
Stand in Warrior I with the strap overhead. Rotate your torso to the left, maintaining the engagement of the strap between your hands. Just as in Tadasana, initiate the twist from your spine, not your hips. Your pelvis should remain fairly squared to the front of the mat. Hold here for 2-3 breaths. Your arms are definitely feeling this now! Feel free to rest your hands down for a few breaths before moving into the next pose.
Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reverse Warrior)
Here’s where it really gets fun. (As if you weren’t having fun already!) From Warrior I, pivot on your right heel and turn your body to face the long side of the mat for Warrior II, Bending at the waist, and keeping the strap taut, lower your right hand toward your outer right knee. Allow this leverage to tilt your left hand toward the sky. Use the resistance of the strap to elongate both sides of your waist, making space for your breath. Hold for 2-3 breaths. Return to Warrior II
Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
From Warrior II, with your arms overhead and your strap stretched between your hands, reach forward and lower your left hand down toward the inside of your left knee. Use your top (right) hand to create tension in the strap and increase your side stretch. Turn your gaze up, forward, or down. Hold for 2-3 breaths. Return to Warrior II
Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III)
Challenge pose! (Skip this if your energy is low.) From Warrior II, pivot on the ball of your right foot, and rotate your torso and hips toward your front foot by pivoting on the ball of your right (back) foot. Lift your back foot off the ground while flexing forward over your front leg. Raise your back leg to hip height, lowering your chest, and put all of your body weight into your front leg. Reach your arms overhead, with the strap tight between your hands. Hold here for 1-2 breath cycles.
High Lunge with Chest Stretch
Step back from Warrior III into Crescent Lunge. Stretch your arms up to the sky and shine your heart up. If your shoulders feel unrestricted, reach the strap in your hands back toward your buttocks. This may require you to widen your hand placement. Hold here for 2-3 breaths.
High Lunge Folded Forward
With your arms still behind you, bend at the hips to dip your chest forward. Reach your arms to the sky for a deeper chest stretch. If you prefer, you can let go of the strap altogether and lower your hands to the ground. Hold here for 2-3 breaths.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Set the strap aside and rest in Child’s Pose before you repeat this sequence on the other side. Once you are comfortable using the strap in a vinyasa flow, you may decide to practice this sequence by moving through each posture with one breath. To cool down after this heat-building vinyasa sequence, try Rocky Heron’s restorative sequence with a strap.