Use a Yoga Strap for Happy Hamstrings

This entry was posted on Jul 23, 2015 by Charlotte Bell.
supta pad 2015Supta Padangusthasana with a Yoga Strap

Supta Padangusthasana is hands-down my favorite pose for addressing tight hamstrings. It’s also the safest in that it’s the least likely to irritate cranky low backs. Lying down to stretch your hamstrings gives you a constant reference point (the floor) to ensure you’re maintaining healthy spinal alignment.

Using a Yoga Strap lets you to find the perfect angle for your leg that allows you to keep it straight while keeping the rest of the body in structural integrity. Lying down, in itself, allows you to release tension more easily since most of your body is supported by the floor. This is key, because the process of lengthening is all about relaxing and letting go, rather than about pushing and forcing. Lying down naturally shifts us to a more easeful mindset.

How to Practice

Lie down on your back on a Yoga Mat or Yoga Blanket (or both if you like extra cushioning) and place both feet into the wall, as if you’re standing on the wall. Draw your right knee in toward your chest, and then loop a strap around the arch of your foot. Extend your leg to whatever angle allows your knee to be straight. This may be perpendicular to the floor, or it may be closer to your body or further away. Be sure to adjust your angle so that your left foot can still press evenly into the wall and so that your breathing is easy.

Now check in with your upper body. Are your shoulders tense? Is your hand gripping your strap for dear life? Are you bugging your eyes out, furrowing your brow or clenching your jaw? Check your breathing. Does your abdomen easily rise and fall as you inhale and exhale? If not, you may need to adjust the angle of your leg to create less stress.

Take ten or more deep breaths. Lower your leg to the floor to rest beside your left leg. Note what you feel. What has changed in your right leg? How does it compare to the left one?

It truly doesn’t matter how close you leg comes to your body. If your leg never even makes it to vertical it’s really okay. The practice is not about accomplishing impressive feats of flexibility. Using a Yoga Strap can help you find just the right angle for your leg to allow for a safe, healthy, satisfying stretch.

Hugger Mugger offers many options for Yoga Straps. Here’s a post that outlines the options and describes how to choose a strap that fits your practice.

 

 

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, published by Rodmell Press. Her second book, Yoga for Meditators (Rodmell Press) was published in May 2012. 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 schools and 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.