One of the beauties of practicing yoga is the minimalism of the practice.
You could do a whole, one hour, yoga practice with nothing but your body.
This makes it easy to begin yoga right away, without having to invest money in equipment.
However, if you find that you’re enjoying yoga, you may decide you want to buy a yoga mat, as well as a couple props that can be quite useful in regards to comfort, relaxation or even increasing the challenge of your physical practice.
Still, in comparison to many sports and hobbies, the cost of these props are very affordable and portable as well.
Until you reach that point, there are two props I recommend: yoga blocks and yoga straps. However, for the sake of time and simplicity, we’re going to focus on one specific prop today, and that is the yoga strap.
What Is a Yoga Strap?
Outside of context, it may just appear to be a belt or random rope but a yoga strap is one of the most versatile yoga props you can use to amplify your practice.
Don’t let the simplicity deceive you. With its compact size, it is easy to carry but also easy to underestimate. When you learn how to incorporate a strap in your practice and you will be pleasantly surprised.
In its simplest state, a yoga strap is a strip of non-elastic material, primarily composed of some blend of cotton or nylon. In addition to varying in material straps also vary in length, color, and fastener options.
As a yoga tool straps help ensure proper alignment, pull yogis deeper into poses, make challenging connections more accessible, provide passive release and so much more.
There is as much versatility in the use of yoga straps as there is variety in yoga straps, so to get started using one the first step is to find the best strap for you.
What Is a Yoga Strap Used For?
Now that you have the perfect strap for you picked out, let’s learn how to use it!
The main ways yoga straps can be added to your practice are for improving alignment, deepening poses, enabling challenging connections, and passive stretching.
Yoga straps are multi-purpose props, useful for both restorative and physically challenging practices.
I often recommend my yoga students to begin their yoga practice with an investment in a yoga mat, two blocks and one strap, due to the practicality of the items. They’re also the most commonly used in yoga classes.
If you’re brand new to yoga or haven’t been to a yoga studio, you might wonder what a yoga strap looks like. Typically, cotton or hemp is used for the material, and they come in a variety of beautiful, solid colors.
You’ll find that the standard length of a yoga strap is 6 feet, but they often also are created as 8 feet and 10 feet long to accommodate taller people, as well as make it easy to be creative with the straps.
Another part of the strap to look at is the cinch. The three options are a quick release clasp, a plastic cinch, or the metal, D-ring.
The quick release is easiest to close, but the least adjustable, making it challenging to use for restorative poses. The plastic cinch is quiet when looping, and has a small slit in the cinch to have the strap go through, but it’s difficult to move the strap through with the limited space.
Lastly, the traditional D-ring is confusing for beginners and might make clinking sounds when looping it, but once understood, it is the easiest to use, the most adjustable, and often the cheapest option.
Personally, the D-ring is my favorite.
How to Tie a D-Ring Cinch Yoga Strap
Since the D-ring cinch can be a little intimidating to new yogis, let me explain step-by-step how to create an adjustable loop.
First, hold your strap in one hand, and then use your other hand to thread the non-ring end of the strap through the holes of both metal rings.
Next, fold the loose end back on itself.
Once the end is folded, it back through the second D-ring, tightening it to your desired loop size.
Not so hard, right? Do this before class starts to make it easy for you to adjust the strap for various poses and alignments, as necessary.
Why Use Yoga Straps?
Now that you know what a yoga strap is, you’re probably wondering why it’s worth adding it to your practice.
As I briefly mentioned earlier, you can use them in restorative classes, or more physically challenging classes. However, how they’re used is quite different.
During a restorative class, you’ll often use straps to keep your body in place, so that you can stay in a pose without much muscle engagement.
One pose that comes to mind that involves using the strap in this way is bound angle pose. In this pose, you lie on your back with your knees out and the soles of the feet together.
The strap goes around the waist and feet, keeping feet in place and preventing the knees from going up. It’s also nice to put blankets or blocks under the knees, so they can rest on them and relax.
There are other restorative poses that the strap can be used with to keep your alignment intact, but I’ll list those later.
When doing a Vinyasa or Hatha yoga class, you’re more likely to use a yoga strap to increase flexibility.
A popular pose to use a yoga strap with is Lord of the Dance pose. In this pose, you’re standing and balancing on one leg, and the other leg is going back with knee bent, and calf facing upward.
During this pose, the strap goes around the back of the foot, and the ends of the strap are held by both hands, pulling the foot in toward the body, so you get a deeper stretch in your back, and eventually, you may be able to touch or grab your foot with your hands.
This is an advanced pose, so if it sounds intimidating, don’t worry about it!
We’ll be discussing how to use straps with beginner and intermediate poses next. I just wanted to give you a popular example of how yoga straps are used during an active, yoga practice.
The Best Poses and Stretches to Do with a Yoga Strap
Here are five poses that are commonly used with straps.
There are many more yoga postures that are done with straps, but this list has a nice variety of restorative and active poses to practice. Be sure to continue your research to learn even more ways to use your yoga strap!
Standing Side Stretch
Start off in a standing position.
Keep the yoga strap unbuckled, and grip each end of the strap with one hand.
Adjust your hands so that they are shoulder-width apart.
Next, raise the strap overhead, and feel the stretch in the top of your shoulders.
Make sure that you’re still standing up straight, pelvis tucked in, and shoulders back, and then on an inhale, tilt your torso over to the left a couple inches until you feel a stretch in your right side body. Exhale.
Take at least 3 full breaths here, and then bring your spine back to neutral. Start to bend to the right side on an inhale and repeat.
Seated Forward Bend
Come into a comfortable seated position, and then let your legs go out in front of you.
Put your left hand on the mat next to your left hip, and put your right hand next to your right hip.
Flex the feet, and push your hands into the mat while you straighten your spine and tuck in your pelvis. This is called Staff pose.
Next, grab your yoga strap, leave it undone, and grab it from each side with each hand like you did with Side Stretch.
On an inhale, bring the strap over your head keeping it taut, and then fold forward, keeping your spine as straight as possible as you bend and hook the strap onto the soles of your feet.
Continue to hold the sides of the strap, walking your hands down the strap to come into a deeper forward fold, or walking your hands towards the ends of the strap for a more shallow forward fold.
When you find a fold that you’re happy with, breathe here 3 times, and then try to go deeper with each couple of breaths.
When coming out of this pose, bring your spine back to neutral very slowly to prevent back pain.
Extended Hand to Big Toe
Begin by creating a small loop with your strap. This loop should be just big enough to hook around the sole of your foot.
Once you set up your strap, come into a standing position, and hold your strap in one hand.
Start to press your left foot into the mat, and raise your right foot from the mat, bending your knee and raising it to hip height.
Bend over slowly with control to hook your foot into the loop, and then hold the long part of the strap with your left hand.
As you lift your left foot higher, start to bring it forward, away from your body, keeping your knee slightly bent until you raise your foot hip height.
If your torso and back start to bend forward, keep your left knee bent to keep your spine nice and straight.
Make sure to also keep your right foot grounded, toes spread, and the core of the body strong.
Take at least 5 deep breaths in this pose.
When you’re ready to come out of the pose, bend your left knee, slowly bring the left foot down and unhook it from the strap.
Stand tall in mountain pose and take a couple deep breaths.
Cow Face Arms
Since stretching the arms in Cow Face Pose can already be challenging for a lot of people, we’re going to ignore the leg work today.
Start off in a comfortable, seated position and have your strap nearby.
Grab your strap, and hold it with your left hand about 3 inches down.
Continuing to hold the strap with your left hand, and bring it over the left shoulder, so that your left elbow is bent, and the forearm is going down the upper back. On the right side, have your right hand grab the bottom of the strap.
To intensify this stretch, walk your hands closer to the middle of the strap after each couple of breaths, causing your elbows to bend more, and your hands to become closer together.
To come out of the stretch, walk your hands back up, let your right hand let go of the strap, bring the strap back to the front of your body and switch hands.
Repeat with the right arm on top this time.
King Pigeon Pose
We’ll begin by preparing our strap. Make a small loop, just big enough to put around the top part of your foot and sole.
Once the strap is prepared, we’ll come into a basic, pigeon pose. To do this, start off on your hands and knees, and have the strap nearby.
Lift your left knee, and then bring it forward closer to your hands, and rotate your left knee out, so that your left ankle is behind the right wrist, and your left knee is behind the left wrist.
Next, turn your left calf in towards your body about 45 degrees.
Straighten your right leg back behind you to increase the stretch in your groin.
Bend your right knee, so that the calf and foot are facing up.
Grab your strap, and turn your torso, so that you can hook the strap onto your foot. It should go around the top of the foot, and its sole.
Hold onto the long part of the strap, and then turn your torso straight again.
Bring the long part over your head, and start to walk your hands down the strap, bending your elbows so that you’re closer to the loop with your foot. Make sure that your elbows don’t fall outward.
Take a couple breaths here, and then start to bend your head and back backward a bit as you continue to walk your hands down the strap.
Once you find your limit, breathe there for 5 breaths, and then slowly come out of the pose.
Switch sides with your right leg forward.
Best Yoga Strap Brands for Beginners and Advanced Yogis
Gaiam is a good, solid brand for most yoga accessories. If you’re looking for reasonably priced, beautiful props, I recommend Gaiam, not only for straps but blocks and yoga mats as well.
The straps come in solid colors, as well as tricolor stripes.
There’s an old-fashioned D-ring to adjust the straps’ loop, and the material is a strong cotton. I’ve had my Gaiam straps for years, and they don’t look the least bit worn!
I personally haven’t used this strap yet, but yogis are raving about the REEHUT strap on Amazon, speaking highly of its color vibrancy.
You can even find them sold with an e-book explaining poses to use them with, which is useful if you want to learn even more about using straps!
This highly-reviewed yoga strap is made 100% of premium cotton and comes in six, eight, and ten feet long.
It is also conveniently machine-washable, making it easy to clean.
Many yogis love their friendly, easy-going customer service. If you want to test out a strap risk-free, you may want to give this one a try!
How Can a Strap Be Used to Assist with Alignment?
When your practicing in a small class with an attentive teacher or a mirror, it can be easy to see when your body isn’t aligned.
A teacher’s subtle touch on your knee reminds you to point it forward while in Setu Bandhasana, Bridge Pose, or you see your elbows begin to roll outward while going into Salamba Sirsasana, Supported Headstand.
While these are great cues you may not always have a teacher or mirror readily available so in these moments a strap can help establish the boundaries of your alignment.
By looping the strap around your limbs you can limit their movement and begin to develop a feeling of your body’s ideal alignment. Take the example of Setu Bandhasana again.
Before you think about lifting your hips, find your strap and place it around your upper thighs. Create a loop and tighten it as needed so when lifting your hips the spread of your knees is limited.
This restriction ensures you knees remain pointed forward without moving to the sides. A strap around your upper arms provides the same while entering your headstand.
Create a loop and adjust it so your elbows are in line with your shoulders. The tension of the loop will ensure your elbows don’t extend outside of this line as you push into the floor.
In both of these postures, you can fully engage all necessary muscles, pushing against the strap. The strap will act as a boundary, limiting motions that will bring you out of alignment.
With time you can remove the strap as your muscle memory will adjust to these actions.
How Can a Yoga Strap Help Facilitate Connections in Poses?
Everybody is different and sometimes certain physical limitations prevent us from fully expressing a pose. This shouldn’t stop you from feeling a full stretch though.
For poses where anatomy or flexibility may limit your ability to make a connection, yoga straps provide a great extension. This comes up in many arm binds.
Say you have shorter arms or have limited shoulder mobility, the arm connection in Gomukhasana, Cow Face Pose, with one elbow up, one down and hands clasped behind your back can be particularly challenging.
This pose is great for stretching your chest, shoulders, and armpits so don’t let this challenging connection deprive you of this stretch.
Holding a strap between both hands can complete that connection as you work to open your shoulders and eventually connect your hands.
This connection can be created in other binds too, such Baddha Parsvakonasana, Bound Extended Side Angle Pose.
Take a strap in your top hand and as you bring the arm around your back, draw your bottom arm under your front thigh. Take hold of the strap to complete this connection and spiral your chest toward the ceiling.
Another way of using a strap to connect body parts that may not otherwise reach is in connections between the hands and the feet.
If your toes aren’t accessible by reaching with your arms, looping a strap around the ball of your foot helps act as an extension of your arm.
Try this in Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, Extended Hand to Toe Pose, to help ensure you maintain an elongated spine while reaching for your toes and stretching your leg.
This hand to foot connection can also be used in seated postures. While in Paschimottanasana, Seated Forward Fold, the leverage of grasping your feet can help you feel a deeper stretch.
A strap can be used in this pose for novices and experts alike. If you can’t quite reach your hands to your toes to be able to pull yourself forward it may feel like you’re just hanging out in space.
Similar to Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, looping the strap around the ball of your foot gives you something to hold onto and this grasp can be used to pull your chest closer to your legs.
If your flexibility brings your hands past your feet, the tension provided by the strap allows you to pull your body even closer. Simply pull on the strap, bending at the elbows, to achieve this deeper stretch.
How Can a Yoga Strap Assist Passive Stretches?
The tension created by placing body weight in your strap encourages many passive stretches while looped into the strap. Supta Baddha Konasana, Reclining Bound Angle Pose, is a fantastic example of how this can be applied.
Begin by creating a loop with your strap and placing it around your waist while seated. Bring the soles of the feet together and put the strap around the outside edge of both feet.
Adjust the strap as needed so it pulls your feet in closer to your body. You can stay here in Baddha Konasana or recline for a more restorative pose.
Viparita Karani, Legs Up the Wall Pose, is a great inverted posture to boosts blood circulation and while already rejuvenating, adding a yoga strap helps to bring an increased passive connection while in this pose.
Simply tighten the loop around your shins prior to bringing the legs up the wall.
This will help keep the legs together without actively engaging muscle to draw them towards one another. The strap acts to add another point of support in this pose.
How to Choose a Yoga Strap?
With all of the variety of straps available it can be challenging to pick just one. Yoga straps vary in material from cotton to nylon and mixes in between. Some factors to consider when purchasing a yoga strap are material, length, connection, and look.
What Is the Best Yoga Strap Material?
The material of the strap doesn’t alter the functionality but is important to consider as the strap will often be in contact with your skin.
Do you enjoy the feel of softer cotton as it is bound around your feet or is the sensation of cooler nylon preferred? When shopping for a yoga strap, be sure to look and touch.
The tactile engagement will ensure the strap you select will be one that feels good to you. The strap’s material also impacts cleaning options.
Nylon straps, for instance, tend to be a bit more water resistant than cotton options. The material minimizes the absorption of sweat and other dirt so you may note that these straps stay more visibly clean in between washes.
For a quick cleanse, they can be wiped down with a damp cloth and will quickly dry. Cotton straps can be more absorptive than nylon but don’t let that dissuade you.
Many cotton straps can be easily thrown in the washing machine to quickly clean them up. Cotton straps are also a bit softer on the skin.
How Do I Clean My Yoga Strap?
The strap you select will likely specify cleaning instructions. While some straps should always be washed by hand, many straps are machine washable.
Regardless of the washing method be sure to avoid putting your strap in the dryer. Some of the hardware may not take well to the heat and tumbling of a dryer and depending on the strap’s material, shrinkage is also a concern.
To maintain the form and durability of your strap, hang it to dry, ensuring that it is fully dry prior to storing.
What Is the Best Length for a Yoga Strap?
Yoga straps typically come in six, eight and ten-foot options. While a six-foot strap is sufficient for most people, you may want to consider a longer strap if you are taller than average.
Longer straps give you more length to maneuver. This can be great for finding creative strap uses but a strap that is too long means you’ll have excess material that may get in the way.
If you already know what main poses you’ll be using your strap for this can help inform your length choice. Plan to use a strap for binding during arm balance practice?
A six-foot strap is perfect. For passive bound poses, extra length may come in handy. An eight-foot strap is the perfect in between and should be suitable for most all needs.
What Type of Strap Connector Is Best?
So much of the versatility of yoga straps come from the ability to connect and release the ends, giving the option of using a long strap or a loop of variable diameter.
The most common methods of creating this connection are metal D-rings, plastic cinch buckles and plastic quick release buckles. Some new strap variations have multiple loops sewn into the material but the traditional connection methods provide more customization.
For maneuverability, D rings are the best option. The metal rings hold the strap well but not as tightly as plastic buckles. This makes adjusting the strap while in a pose notably easier and minimizes the potential for the strap to tangle.
Plastic cinch buckles are a great pick if you want a more secure connection. With limited space between the strap and the buckle, these give a tighter connection.
This added tension makes adjusting the strap while in a posture a bit more of a challenge. Quick release buckles are the easiest to connect but similar to the plastic cinch buckles, they are tighter and more challenging to adjust.
What Else Should I Consider When Picking a Yoga Strap?
Finally, pick a strap that you like to look at. With all of the color and pattern options available, have some fun and pick a strap that you visually enjoy.
Perhaps you want to coordinate the strap with your yoga props. You can’t go wrong picking a strap that looks good to you.
Can I Use a Yoga Strap as a Beginner?
Yoga straps are especially great for beginners to help them feel how a more challenging pose will feel as they work to build the strength or flexibility required for full expression.
Natarajasana, Lord of the Dance pose is a well-rounded pose that demonstrates this. Incorporating standing balance, a backbend, a chest opener, and thigh stretch, it is a powerful pose and these benefits should be shared.
A strap quickly makes the pose accessible for beginners or anyone else working on flexibility. Either loop the strap around the arch of one foot then cross straps or create a small loop with the buckle and tighten the loop around your foot.
The focus here is to create a secure loop or stirrup for your foot. Once connected hold the strap in the hand of the same side and begin to enter the posture.
When ready, use the strap as an extension of your arm and kick into it as you would kick into your hand to deepen your backbend and get more of a stretch in your thigh.
Pulling the strap closer overhead will also help intensify the stretch.
For such a simple tool, yoga straps are incredibly valuable and should be incorporated into your yoga practice at any stage.
There are so many uses of straps already documented so ask your instructor for more suggestions and also get creative and create your own. After all, it’s your practice.