The problem was I couldn’t get deep enough.
With certain stretches, I didn’t have the range of motion in other areas to be able to get as deep into a stretch as I needed to be.
It was most mostly in poses where I was trying to increase the depth of my legs in a stretch.
Take the seated forward fold. If you’re going to feel the best sensation in the stretch then, ideally, you want to be able to hold onto your toes or feet.
But what if you can’t get there? You’re essentially just a grown man shaking like hell just trying to reach your toes. Not a good look!
Are you feeling it in your hamstrings? You’re probably too tense to even notice (or care).
So how can you possibly feel this stretch if you can’t even get into it?
With one of the simplest yet one of the most essential tools out there.
How the strap is an essential prop
I say it’s simple. It is, after all, just a strap.
It does do a number fo things for you though depending on the pose you’re in.
Extends your reach - Think back to that seated forward fold. You can’t touch your toes but looping your strap around your feet and pulling back on either end to bring your torso forward means you can get that same sensation.
Allows you to relax - Sometimes, especially in Yin yoga, the whole point is to be able to relax in a pose and stay there long enough to reach the fascia and ligaments. If you’re pulling your foot down in half happy baby (see below) then there is tension in the body because your arms are busy pulling. For 3 minutes? Hardly relaxing.
Just be mindful of not pulling or forcing your way too deep and injuring yourself. That wouldn’t be very good!
So, focusing on the hips today, here are 5 stretches to use with a strap and increase flexibility in the hips.
Seated forward fold
Sit with your legs straight in front of you.
Fold the strap in two and loop the strap behind the balls of your feet. Keeping your legs straight, pull on both ends, as if you’re trying to pull your torso forward and flex your feet.
Hold for about 2-4 minutes.
Reclined hamstring stretch
Lying on your back, wrap the loop of the strap around the ball of your right foot. Keeping your right leg straight, start to bring the leg towards your head and pull down on the strap to get deeper into the stretch. Flex your foot for even deeper still. When you’re done, switch legs. Hold for about 3 minutes each side.
Half happy baby
Lying on your back, wrap the loop of the strap around the ball of your right foot, like in reclined hamstring.
This time, bend your knee and pull down on the strap, as if you’re trying to get your knee to your right shoulder. The bottom of your foot should be facing the ceiling so your shin is vertical. Focus on your knee tracing out towards your shoulder and not coming into the midline. When you’re finished, slowly release the strap and do the same on the other foot.
Hold for about two minutes each side.
Create a big loop to wrap around the middle of your back. Keep it loose so you can lie back and, bringing your knee towards your chest, get the strap around your knee.
Tighten the strap so the strap is pulling your knee in towards your armpit (like half happy baby, you don’t want the knee coming inwards, more out). Just lie back and let the strap and gravity open your hips.
Once done, loosen the strap and repeat on the other side. I enjoy a four minute hold here.
If your balance is quite good, this can be a good stretch and challenge for increasing extension in the hip.
Wrap the loop around your foot so its at the ball of your foot level. Stand tall, bringing the strap behind you by raising your bent elbows to the sky and holding onto the other end of the strap. Bend your knee and bring the foot unto your bum, as if you’re doing a tight stretch.
Lean forward to counter the weight and pull the strap as if you’re doing a tricep extension. At the same time, push your foot down against the strap. This tension should create a stretch in the front of your thigh.
You can have one hand on a wall and pull using one hand if you’re struggling.
One minute each side should be sufficient as this is a more active pose.
Straps aren't expensive so if you don't have one, follow this link. (Full disclosure, I earn a tiny bit from recommending this. I won't be paying off my mortgage though!)
Give these a go and let me know how you get on.
In a bit.