Yoga props are used more in some styles of yoga, such as Iyengar, Restorative and Hatha, compared to others, like Bikram. Because of this, many people have never used a yoga prop before and find them awkward and confusing. I had never used a Yoga prop before I started my teacher training, but was a quick convert as I appreciate how they allow people to access poses that they may otherwise feel they aren't able to access. Keep reading to see just some of the ways you can use a Yoga Strap - my favourite of the yoga props - in your practice. .
Why: If your hamstrings are tight it may be very difficult to reach for the foot with your hand and straighten the leg toward the ceiling
How: Loop the belt around the sole of the foot and stretch the leg up toward the ceiling.
*Note: You can also use the belt in the standing version of this posture - hasta padangusthasana
Seated Forward Folds
Why: If the hamstrings are tight you may not be able to reach for the feet in these poses. The belt allows you to stretch into the backs of the legs without rounding through the spine - so you can keep an open chest and long spine - and also prevents from over stretching and straining into the low back.
How: Loop the belt around the souls of the feet instead of reaching for the toes with your hands.
Why: If you are tight through the shoulders you likely won't be able to reach for opposite finger tips in this pose.
How: Place the belt over the shoulder of the arm that is lifted in this posture, continue to reach up through the lifted arm and down through the opposite arm while holding on to the belt.
Why: The belt supports the legs and allows you to maintain the position without effort.
How: Loop the belt behind the sacrum, over the thighs, and under the ankles, fastening it tight enough so that you can still recline over blocks or a bolster, or on to the floor. Be mindful as to where the metal rings are so they don't dig into your skin.
King Pigeon Pose
Why: Reaching back to grasp the foot requires very open quadriceps muscles, a deep back bend and open shoulders - and a lot of practice. The belt allows you to practice this posture while your body slowly opens in those areas.
How: Create a small loop at the end of the belt and slide the foot of the leg that will stretch back behind you through it. Once in the half pigeon posture, rest the end of the belt over the shoulder on the same side of the leg that is stretched out. Reach up and over with your arms to grasp the belt with both hands. Begin to walk your hands down the belt as the foot lifts and the knee bends behind you.
Some people view props as a "crutch" in their Yoga practice - preventing them from going as deep into the postures as possible. I don't see it that way. The belt in these poses provides you the support to access these poses where you are at, and after you work with the belt in these poses for awhile, your body will open more and more and eventually you'll be able to work without the it!