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Yoga Strap Magic: Use a Long Strap to Put Your Shoulders in Place
Typing, driving, cooking, gardening: almost everything we do encourages us to slide our shoulder blades up our backs and roll them forward. Over time, that can lead to stiff shoulders, sore upper backs, and neck pain.
You can reverse this action, and move your shoulders back and down, with the help of one eight-foot yoga strap or two shorter straps tied together.
How to Use a Yoga Strap to Set Your Shoulders in Place
Take the strap behind your back, as close to your armpits as possible. It helps to bend forward and let gravity assist. You want the strap to catch the bottom edge of your shoulder blades, or slightly higher.
Hold one side of the strap in each hand and balance the length so there’s an equal amount on the right and left sides.
Now take each strap over its own shoulder, letting each end hang down your back. Adjust it so the strap across your back and the straps over your shoulders feel snug.
( Make sure the strap is snug before you cross it behind your back. See photo lower right. )
Then cross the straps behind your back.
Pull down on the straps, moving your hands toward the floor. When you pull down, you should feel your shoulder blades move down your back, and from their bottom edges, press forward into your ribcage. If the sensation isn’t like being tucked into a Victorian shoulder brace, the strap isn’t tight enough, or it’s too high in your back.
Now move your front ribs away from your tee shirt, toward the back of your body, but keep the width and lift of your shoulders.
Once you have the strap in place, stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Move the tops of your thighs back. Shift your weight into your heels. Lift your chest, and enjoy the feeling of open and supported shoulders.
Take It Into Other Yoga Poses
You can also experiment with doing sideways standing poses with the strap in place. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose) or Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) work well.
Continue to use your hands on the straps to pull down.
When you take one of the standing poses to the right side, pull gently forward with the right strap to increase the rotation in your ribcage.
Benefits: Like a yoga partner who is always ready to help out, the strap will reverse the forward motion of your shoulders and help set the feeling of good posture in your body’s memory.
Sequence: You can do this as a stand-alone practice whenever you’d like to move your shoulders into alignment. Some students travel with a strap and use it on long flights to help prevent a slumped posture and back pain.
In a longer practice, stand in Tadasana with the strap on, and then move slowly into your standing poses. Feel how working the shoulder blades with the strap helps you keep your chest lifted and open.
Ouch: Avoid this preparation if you have existing neck or shoulder injuries, at least until you can try it with your teacher’s supervision. If you feel pinching in your lower back, you’re over-arching. Move your thighs back, shift your weight into your heels, and draw your front ribcage away from your tee shirt, toward your spine.
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Reprinted with permission from My Five-Minute Yoga Practice.
EVE JOHNSON is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher with 18 years of teaching experience. Since 2016, she has been exploring Spinefulness, a postural system based on the work of Noelle Perez-Christiaens, one of BKS Iyengar’s first western students and the author of Sparks Of Divinity. Eve especially values Spinefulness for the presence and ease it brings to yoga postures and to everyday life. She teaches at Yoga on 7th, in the South Main neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada.