Updated: Nov 5
Did you ever wonder how to use a yoga belt or strap? And what are the benefits?
You’ll often hear people using the words yoga strap and yoga belt interchangeably. So as you read this article or practice with teachers and wonder what is the difference between a yoga belt or strap? Don’t worry too much. They are just two different words for the same thing!
Want to see how to set up and use your yoga belt? Practice along with this 20 minute practice that shows you how to use a yoga belt.
What can you use as an alternative instead of a yoga strap?
Before we start exploring how to use a yoga strap it’s good to think about what you can use an alternative instead of a yoga strap. You could try using something like a scarf or tie that has a similar shape and ability to bring tension into the material.
I’ve found when I’m traveling or at a yoga studio practicing without a yoga strap that an alternative prop like a scarf can be useful for some postures—mostly where you want to keep resistance and press into or away from the belt.
But as soon as you want to do a yoga posture with a belt that requires a loop in the belt alternatives are tricky. As it isn’t very easy to create a secure loop in a scarf or tie.
For this reason, I would recommend at some point that you choose to invest in a yoga strap. This is because the material of the strap is designed to be used under tension. And there are many more possibilities of postures to use the strap with a loop that is reliable and easily adjustable.
How to tie a yoga strap
If you’ve never used a yoga strap or set up your own loop before it can feel a bit confusing to know how to tie your yoga strap into a loop.
The easiest way to learn how to do this is to follow along from the beginning of my yoga with straps YouTube video to see how to step-by-step tie your yoga strap. But you can also follow along with these steps:
Unwrap your yoga strap and make sure the strap is not twisted.
Thread the end of the strap (without the buckle) through one side of the buckle on the opposite side.
Keep pulling the end of the strap through the buckle until you’ve pulled about half the strap through the buckle.
Then draw the middle of the buckle towards the side that you’ve looped the strap through and start to thread the end now through the other side of the buckle.
You then should have a loop and can try pressing against it to check it’s stable.
If you need to adjust the size of the loop you can do that by moving first the outer part of the strap towards or away from the buckle.
How long should a yoga strap be?
The length of the yoga strap that you need will depend on:
The yoga posture: if you’re using the strap to press the ball of your foot into and straighten your leg it will need to be a different length to when you’re using the strap to actively open your shoulders.
Body proportions: how does the length of your leg compare to the length of your arm? Each of us have different lengths of our limbs and different proportions. We therefore need to vary the length of the belt accordingly.
Flexibility: as a general rule the more flexible you are the shorter length you’ll need the belt to be. This will be specifically noticeable when you are doing postures that are more focused on flexibility than strength.
Since the majority of the yoga exercises and stretches we’ll be doing require the loop to be on a medium sized loop I would suggest to start with creating a medium loop with your belt. And then you can make slight adjustments to the belt as needed for the different postures.
What is a yoga belt used for? Try these exercises with a yoga belt…
There are many different yoga postures that you can enhance by using a yoga belt. It’s generally intended to keep a bit of resistance to the material so that you can firmly press into the belt and find an active stretch.
You can find here five different yoga postures that you can use a yoga belt. Having the option to adjust the yoga belt in the posture can feel more supportive and also give you some resistance so that you can press towards the belt and engage the muscles more, working harder.
Yoga strap for leg stretches
One of the most effective postures with a strap—and by far my favorite—is the Reclined Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana). The beauty of this pose is that you can do it without a lot of warm up and so you can practice it either at the start or end of a yoga practice.
Start by bending your right leg and pressing the ball of your right foot into the belt while you keep a bit of resistance in the belt with your arms. See if you can keep pressing the ball of the foot actively into the belt as you keep your shoulders and head heavy and arms a little active.
If your hamstring feels a little tighter you can keep your knee a bit bent. But if your hamstring feels ok you can work on lengthening your right leg and possibly drawing it a bit towards your chest.
Stay here for 5-10 breaths.
If you then want to get a bit more into a stretch for your IT band (outer hip) you can then start to moving your right leg to the left while keeping the tension on the belt. Again leg could bend a little here if you need.
Stay here for another 5-10 breaths.
And then when you’re ready slowly bring your right leg back to the middle, release the belt, and repeat on the left side.
Yoga strap for standing balance
This standing balance with a yoga belt is a great follow on posture after you’ve opened your hamstrings and hips in the last pose.
For the Standing Big Toe Pose (Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana) with a strap you want to wrap the belt around the ball of your right foot and then shift your weight into your left leg.
Keep pressing your right foot into the belt as you slowly lift your right leg up and maybe start to shift your arms further up the belt.
The nice thing here is you can really use the length of the belt that feels best for your body proportions and flexibility.
Once you find your maximum in the posture you could add on a twist by holding both sides of the belt in your left hand and starting to twist to the right. Right hand could stay on your right hip or reach back behind you.
Stay here for around 5 breaths.
And then slowly exhale as you turn back forward and release your right leg. From here you can then switch the belt to the left leg and repeat on the opposite side.
Yoga strap for shoulders
As I mentioned before, using props like a yoga strap doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have to work in your yoga posture. And you’ll certainly find this to be true in this shoulder strengthener variation with a yoga strap.
You want to set up by creating a loop in your strap that is about shoulder width apart. Make sure the loop of the belt is tightly in place and place around your forearms (just above your elbows).
You want to be able to actively press your arms out into the belt, while keeping the elbows shoulder distance apart. So feel free to slightly adjust the belt to make sure it’s set up correctly.
Come onto your hands and knees. Spread your fingers wide and start to lean your weight towards your arms, bending your elbows and dropping your chin and chest forward and down.
Hold for a few breaths, doing your best to keep your breathing slow and steady. And then slowly ease your way out and come to rest a few breaths in Child’s Pose.
Depending on how this variation felt, you could try repeating this on the hands and knees a few times. If you feel strong in this variation you can try coming into a plank—still with the belt around the upper arms—and from the Plank leaning your chest forward and bending your elbows coming into a Low Plank (Chaturanga).
This is a hard posture, particularly to hold for five breaths! So if you are finding it challenging take your time to build up to this gradually.
I find the transitions in and out are actually harder than when you’re in the posture with the belt. So make sure you leave some energy to come out carefully and safely from the posture!
Yoga strap for back posture
This variation of a shoulder opener with a yoga strap is a great one to help your posture and back. As well as being a useful counterpose for the shoulder strengthener we just did.
You can sit in a kneeling or crossed legged position and hold the belt a wider than the shoulders. Hands can be facing towards each other and top of the shoulders are heavy and spreading out to the sides.
On an inhale start to reach your arms up and over head. And then on an exhale slowly reach your arms back down again.
Repeat this for about five rounds.
And then reach your arms up one more time, this time pausing at the top for several breaths. See how it feels to draw your arms a little bit more back. Opening up the front of your shoulders.
And then slowly exhale, release the arms back down, release the belt, and take a few shrugs of your shoulders.
Yoga strap for relaxation
In this final yoga pose we’re using the help of the yoga strap to relax and support the legs.
You can come to sit close to a wall. Bring the loop of your belt to about the width of your hips and then bring the loop of the belt around your legs, close to your ankles.
Roll over onto your back and start to shuffle your hips closer to the wall. So that you’re lying on your back with your hips right up to the wall and legs resting up the wall.
You can allow your legs to be heavy and relaxed with your feet dropping out a little to the side. The belt can feel pretty nice here as a gentle support for the legs. So that your legs can rest against the belt on the wall with little effort.
Close your eyes and stay here anywhere from 5 – 20 minutes.
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