Yoga Straps: How it All Started

This entry was posted on Mar 26, 2012 by Charlotte Bell.

The Birth of Yoga Straps

I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true that necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes those little inventions born of necessity can turn out to be the tip of a much bigger iceberg (another cliché).

This is what happened in early 1986 when Mary Dunn came to Salt Lake City to teach a yoga workshop. At the time Salt Lake had a healthy Iyengar Yoga community. Two of the local Iyengar teachers, Cita Riley and David Riley, had amassed a scrappy collection of improvised props to use in their classes and workshops. Old thrift store neckties substituted for yoga straps. Carpet remnants substituted for blankets. And the latest, greatest (at the time) innovation was institutional green sticky mats made from European carpet underlay.

Coming from the much bigger community of San Diego, Mary was accustomed to using made-for-yoga straps with buckles—1-inch wide straps imported from the Iyengar Institute in India. One student from Idaho had brought to the workshop a 1-1/2-inch wide cotton belt with a metal D-ring buckle she’d ordered from L.L. Bean. Throughout the weekend, Mary called on this student to lend her strap for demonstrations. Clearly, this strap was way more functional than the old thrift store ties, and easier on the skin than the 1-inch variety.

One Salt Lake student, Sara Chambers, was impressed by the functionality of the L.L. Bean strap. An enterprising custom furniture maker, Sara’s response was to go home after the workshop and make one of her own. Using a heavy-gauge dog lead, Sara made a 6-foot long, 1-1/2-inch wide strap with a metal D-ring buckle. The same weekend she fashioned a pair of special, modestly designed yoga shorts. Soon, everyone in Sara’s local class had one of her special straps, and wore her new, custom-made shorts. The strap would become the model for the vast majority of yoga straps to follow, and the shorts became THE expression of yoga fashion for years. Hugger Mugger is named after those original shorts. You can read a more detailed history here.

Not long after designing her first straps, Sara began offering different strap lengths. Six feet was simply not long enough to meet the needs of some of the tallest students, so she added 8-foot and 10-foot straps to the line. As time passed, she experimented with providing the option of a lighter weight buckle. At a fraction of the weight of the classic D-ring, the plastic Cinch buckle is a great choice for people who carry their straps to different locations. She replaced the original cotton dog lead webbing with webbing rated to 600 pounds, far more than any yogi would ever need, but enough to ensure that anyone using her straps would be completely safe and secure. Then came fun colors. In addition to the standard natural color, Hugger Mugger began making straps in various new colors, like purple and blue.

Lots of Options

These days, Hugger Mugger offers five strap choices:

  • Cotton D-Ring Strap:  The original design comes in six colors and three lengths: 6-foot, 8-foot and 10-foot.
  • Cotton Cinch Strap:  This lightweight strap comes in six colors and three lengths: 6-foot, 8-foot and 10 foot.
  • Quick Release Strap:  This 10-foot strap comes in three colors and features a lightweight plastic quick-release buckle.
  • India Strap:  Imported from India, these 1-inch wide straps are the same straps used at the Iyengar Institute in India.

As a teacher, I can vouch for the longevity of Hugger Mugger’s straps. I still have (and use!) some of Sara’s original straps from 1986 where I teach. I’ve also added 8-foot and 10-foot straps to accommodate some of my taller students’ needs. My students use all three lengths at various times.

If you choose to outfit your studio with straps of different lengths, here’s a helpful hint:  It makes teaching a whole lot easier if the different lengths are easy to distinguish from each other, so consider ordering all 6-foot straps in one color, 8-foot straps in another color, and 10-foot straps in another color. That way students don’t have to look at the labels to identify which length they’re using.

If you have any strap stories or helpful hints, please feel free to share. We love your feedback!

For some suggestions of how to use yoga straps, check out our props guide.

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

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