A yoga strap – also known as a stretch belt – is a fantastic tool to help take your stretches to the next level.
I’m going to show you six ways to use a simple yoga strap to open up and stretch your muscles, soothing any muscle tension or tightness you might be feeling.
The thing that’s so awesome about these stretches is that they give you gentle support, allowing you to go deeper into a stretch than you normally would be able to.
That’s one reason they are great for post-workout recovery, which helps you return your body into a healthy alignment.
Yoga Strap Stretches Make Stretching Easier
Here’s an important note: you can get yoga straps at nearly any yoga store, and also at well-stocked major sporting goods retailers.
But if you don’t have a yoga strap, you can use a regular belt for most of these exercises. You’ll just want to have something that you can make a loop with, which will be very helpful in some the following stretches.
The thing that’s so awesome about these stretches is that they give you gentle support, allowing you to go deeper than your normally would be able to.
1. Shoulder/Triceps/Upper Back Opener
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For this first stretch we’re going to work on opening up through the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulders.
Start by standing tall, feet under hips, your knees soft, hips square. Holding the strap in your right hand, bring your right elbow up so that it is by your right ear, draping the belt behind your back.
Reach behind with your left hand, your left elbow at 90 degrees, and grip the belt. The belt should be right along your spine.
Now, you’re going to “floss” that belt up and down, pulling up with the right hand a few inches and then pulling back down with the left hand.
You’ll be stretching through the triceps and the rotator cuff at the same time. If you’d like, you can lean to the side a little bit, opening up through the latissimus dorsi muscles.
Do 10 or so reps on one side, then switch to the other side.
You’ll feel how that opens up your upper back and shoulder muscles. This yoga strap stretch can be very helpful for people who are especially tight through their shoulders.
2. Quadriceps Stretch
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Next, from a standing position, we’ll do a standing quadriceps stretch, which requires some balance. If that’s an issue for you, no worries – I’ve got a version you can do on the floor, just below.
First, take the loop of the yoga strap and wrap it around your right foot. Lift that foot up behind you, so that your right heel comes up toward your bum. The yoga strap should drape over your right shoulder, so that you are stretching your right quadriceps muscle.
From here it’s important to keep your knees under your hips, hips square, abs braced. Be sure that you’re not arching your back or compressing your spine here, as you pull your foot closer to your bum.
The whole idea of this yoga strap stretch is to get your heel as close to your bum as possible.
When you are in this position you can make the stretch more effective by pushing out against the belt then relaxing to draw the heel in closer.
Continue to alternate pushing and pulling as you contract and relax. That’s called PFN (or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching, and it’s very effective.
If this standing stretch is uncomfortable for you, you can do the same thing lying on your side.
3. Lying Quadriceps Stretch
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For this stretch, all you do is lie on your side, the belt still wrapped around your right foot, other end of the belt over your right shoulder. Your hips are stacked on top of each other, abs braced.
As we did with the standing stretch, you will pull the heel closer to the bum as you relax, and contract your muscle as you push the foot away.
The important thing with this lying stretch is that your thighs remain close together so you don’t wing that leg out to the side, bringing it out of alignment. In addition to being less challenging the balance department, this version is a little bit more relaxing.
4. Seated Hamstring Stretch
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The next yoga strap stretch is a two-legged hamstring stretch. I’m going to show you a couple variations, based on your foot position.
With the first one, wrap the stretch belt near the base of your foot, toward your heel.
Sit tall on the floor, bracing your core. It’s important for you to keep your torso as tall as possible, sitting on your sit bones.
Now, for some people this is enough of a stretch.
From here, I want you to contract your quads, or the big muscles along the front of your legs. Why? Because it relaxes the hamstrings, or the muscles at the back of your legs.
This is called reciprocal inhibition. You can’t have two opposing muscle groups contracted at the same time, and that’s a big trick when it comes to improving your flexibility.
From here, just sit nice and tall on your sit bones, contracting your quads and relaxing your hamstring. Maybe this is all you need.
Here’s a big form trick: If your goal is to stretch your hamstrings, avoid collapsing your back, folding your shoulders so that your chest stretches toward legs. What you want to to do instead is hinge forward slightly at the hips, digging your heels into the floor.
To make this yoga strap stretch a little more challenging, move the loops toward the top of the feet, around your toes, so that it’s pulling back on your feet.
You’ll feel more calf and back-of-the-knee action going on. Remaining nice and tall, you’ll feel the stretch.
5. Lying-Down Hamstring Stretch
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The next version of the hamstring stretch is done lying down.
With this one, take one of the yoga strap loops and wrap it around your right foot, and lie on your back, bringing that right foot up toward the ceiling.
There are two ways to do this, one with your left (non-stretching) leg bent, foot on the floor to provide more support for your low back. Or, you can extend that leg straight on the floor to open up through that left hip flexor a little.
There are some options for belt placement here – if you pull the toes down a bit, so that they dip toward your shin, you’ll get more of a calf stretch. But if you loop the belt closer to the heel, you’ll stretch the calf a little less and the hamstring even more.
You want to be sure to keep your legs nice and straight, your muscles taut, contracting the quad to relax the hamstrings.
From here, you can take your up-stretched leg across your body, over to the side, so that it drapes over your hip.
This stretch will open up the IT band, right through the glutes, and along the outside of your leg and hip.
This is a serious stretch, especially if you’ve got tightness in that area.
You can also open this up in the other direction, so your leg stretches away from your body, being careful to support that outstretched leg. On this side, you’ll stretch through more of the groin and into the inside of your thigh.
6. Piriformis Yoga Strap Stretch
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This next stretch targets the piriformis muscle, which is the muscle in your glute that we sit on. This muscle gets really tight in a lot of people.
To do this yoga strap stretch, take one of the loops and wrap it around your right foot and then lie on your back on the floor, your left knee bent at 90 degrees, left foot on the floor.
Now, bending your right knee, place your right ankle against your left thigh, pressing your right knee away from your body, keeping that right foot flexed.
In this position, you should feel a stretch along the outside of the right hip.
To deepen the stretch, you can lift your left leg up off the floor so that your left knee is above your hip.
Now, if you want to deepen the stretch but are feeling too tight to comfortably lift up that left leg, remove the belt from around your foot, and instead loop it around the back of that left thigh.
And all you have to do is pull the belt so that it supports that left leg as it stretches up, keeping your head and neck on the floor.
Get Your Yoga Strap Stretch On
Those are some very simple and effective stretches using the yoga strap. For a simple $10 investment, you can get a huge benefit from adding these supported stretches into your regimen.
They can be done at the gym or while you’re hanging out at home watching TV. Give them a try and see what they do for your workout recovery and flexibility!
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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.