Belts or straps are yoga props designed to help with the modification of intense yoga postures. Using a strap can help a practicing yogi focus on correct alignment in a position instead of straining, which can cause unbalance and injury.
Unlike bolsters, which work best as props in passive poses, belts are at their best assisting in active, challenging postures. If a person is not yet flexible enough to touch his toes, for example, a belt looped around the feet and held in the hands can act as an extension of the arms. This allows a well-aligned, flat-backed position hinged from the waist, instead of encouraging rounding of the spine as the practitioner struggles to grab his toes. The belt allows the yogi to find a comfortable blend of proper alignment and physical exertion while protecting himself from injury.
Positions that Can Use Belts:
A number of postures can utilize belts as helpful props. A few of these include:
Seated Forward Bend: Wrap the belt around both feet and hold the strap with your hands. The belt acts as an extension of the arms.
Standing Forward Bend: Similar to Seated Forward Bend. Shift your balance to the standing leg and wrap the belt around the foot before extending the leg forward. Again, the belt acts as an extension of the arms.
Standing Bow: Use the plastic end of the belt to create a loop around the top of the foot. As you extend your arm forward and lift the leg behind you, hold the strap in the hand that reaches back behind you. The belt extends the reach of the arm so that less flexible practitioners can still focus on proper balance without risking injury.
Shoulder Stand: Make a large loop in the belt and cinch your elbows behind your back before beginning the pose. The belt supports proper alignment of the shoulders, assisting the muscles in supporting the body's weight and extending the elbows directly behind the body.
There are many other postures that can utilize yoga belts or straps. Fairly easy positions like Seated Forward Bend can be practiced with a belt at home. For more complex postures like shoulder stand, consult with a licensed instructor before attempting to practice the posture with a strap. Proper use and education will help you avoid unintentionally increasing your risk for injury.