Working with props: the strap

Accept help
Part I: The Strap
by Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on August 5, 2015

4 b Anna Withrow in Modified Dancer with backbend

The “I’m Not Flexible Enough” myth is one that can stop people from practicing yoga.

Yoga isn’t Cirque du Soleil. It’s not about how the posture looks contrary to the tricked-out poses that populate social media.

If you yank, tug and overstretch your body into a pose for which it isn’t ready, you’re going to get frustrated, or, even worse, injured.  In yoga, you are not at war with your own body.

Surrender the ego and accept help. Props, specifically straps and blocks, hold your alignment as both you and your body learn, grow and change.

Begin with the strap.

Part I: The Strap

Modified King Pigeon

1 Aja Reeser in Modified King Pigeon

Basic Pigeon is a hip-opening split with a bent front leg. King Pigeon includes reaching your arms overhead so you can grab your back foot, backbend, and pull that foot to the back of your head.

If you have a less-than-flexible back and tight hips, you won’t be able to reach your back foot, and you’ll tip over if you try.

What to do: Loop the strap around your back foot and hold the ends of the strap overhead.  This lessens the severity of the backbend so you can enjoy the grounding of the pelvis, the opening of the hips, and the stretch in the piriformis and quadriceps.

Modified Boat Pose

2 Anna Withrow in Modified Boat

In the ideal Boat Pose, you are sitting between your sitting bones and tailbone with your extended legs in the air.  Your back is straight so you look like a capital V.

It’s not that easy. Your abs stop your back from hitting the floor, but it’s hard to hold the legs up when your hip flexors are not up to the task. Your thighs will drop open while your spine rounds to compensate.

What to do: Wrap the strap around your thighs and tighten it so your legs stay together.  Move into Boat with a straight back and keep your legs bent. As your hip flexors strengthen, you’ll be able to hold the straight legs.

Reclined Big Toe Pose

3 b Gary Granza in vertical Big Toe Hold

Lie on your back, and pull your right knee into your chest.  Grab your big toe and straighten that leg to the sky.

The tight hamstrings you are trying to stretch will probably not allow this.

What to do:  Loop a strap around your foot, and hold the ends of the strap close to your chest. Let your head and shoulders relax to the floor.  Straighten that leg, and feel your hamstrings open.  After holding for as long as you like, open the leg wide to the side while holding the strap.

3 a Gary Granza in open Big Toe Hold

Modified Dancer

4 a Gary Granza in Modified Dancer

Dancer is tough.  You balance on one leg, reach back with your hands and pull your other foot behind your head.

Issues with balance along with hip and back inflexibility can make this pose inaccessible.

What to do: Similar to King Pigeon, wrap your strap around your back foot.  You have two choices.  With your arms overhead, begin to pull your leg higher as you push the top of your foot away from you into the strap.  This creates a small backbend.  If you prefer to focus on opening the hips and balance, use the strap to pull your heel closer to the buttocks and hinge forward at the hips so your torso and thigh are in a straight line.

Using the strap to relax

Reclined neck release

5 Heather Olson in reclined neck release

Make a big, closed loop with your strap. Lie on your back with your legs bent, soles to the floor.  Loop the strap around one foot and lift that leg straight up.  Slip the other end of the loop around the back of your head.  Your extended leg will hold your head up, and you can feel your neck release.

Reclined Cobbler’s Pose

6 Heather Olson in Reclined Cobbler's Pose

Lie on your back or bolster with the soles of your feet touching, your knees dropping open to a diamond.

Tight hips can make the thighs tough to open.

Take your strap that’s in a big, closed loop and wrap it around your waist as well as your feet.  As you lie back, the strap will gently press the thighs open.

Next week:  Accept Help Part II: The Block.

 

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