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If you’ve ever taken a restorative yoga class, you know it can be magical. Talk about a simple practice of self-care! Restorative yoga stimulates your rest-and-digest response—the opposite of the highly-stressed, fight-or-flight state in which you likely spend too much time—slows your heart rate and breath, and inspires a feeling of deep relaxation.
Yet practicing restorative yoga at home can be daunting if you don’t have multiple bolsters, blankets, blocks, and other yoga props. (And if you’re a teacher, a studio’s lack of props can prevent you from teaching some deeply restorative poses that you might otherwise like to incorporate into your classes.) That’s why I created this restorative yoga sequence, which uses just one simple prop: a strap.
The use of props in a restorative yoga practice makes the practice significantly more effective. Even more importantly, props make the postures much more enjoyable to comfortably sustain. The right props empower you to completely surrender and relax into the shapes.
In this restorative sequence, use the strap to find the most comfortable and relaxing expressions of each posture, and notice how you’re able to soften muscular control and surrender to the magic of the relaxation response.
Need Some Self-Care? Try This 75-Minute One-Strap Restorative Yoga Sequence
For this sequence, make sure you’re using a strap that’s 8- to 10-feet long. Other than your strap, you will need your yoga mat and a calm, quiet, relaxing environment.
1. Strap Backpack Meditation
Begin seated in any comfortable position. You can sit in a chair, on a cushion, or on the floor. Wherever you choose to be, elevate your seat slightly higher than your knees so that your hips can relax completely.
Elongate your spine by reaching your sit bones toward the floor and stretching the crown of your head toward the sky. Take your strap and loop it behind your back to touch the bottom tip of your shoulder blades. Hold on to each end of the strap with the corresponding hand and equalize the excess slack of the strap on both sides.
From here, sling the strap ends over your shoulders so that they fall back behind you. Pull down on both ends of the strap to gently tighten its grip over your shoulders. Then, cross the strap ends into an “X” shape behind your back. Keep the strap pulled taut and take hold of either end of the strap in each respective hand in front of you. Loop the strap into the buckle and tighten it. Soften your shoulders and relax your arms into any place of comfort.
Now that you’ve strapped yourself into a position of good posture, close your eyes and draw your awareness inside. Mentally scan your body to find any hidden pockets of tension, and if any arise, consciously give yourself permission to release them. Turn your attention to your breath and elongate each inhale and each exhale. Soften your mind and surrender into the present moment; become enthralled by the beauty of this very moment.
Stay here for about 5 minutes, becoming completely present.
2. Captured Butterfly
Unloop the strap from the buckle and release it from around your shoulders. Come to sit down on your mat if you’re not already there. Stretch your legs forward in front of you and take any movements to unwind that your body may be craving. Loop your strap around the buckle to make a wide loop with it.
When you’re ready, draw the soles of your feet to touch and open your knees out wide toward the outer edges of your mat. Place your strap over your head and hook it around your sacrum (the flat, triangular-shaped bone below your lower back and above your tailbone). Take the other end of your looped strap and hook it around your feet. Tighten the strap until it becomes taut so you can relax muscular control over your legs and the strap will hold them in place as they are.
From here, place your hands behind your back and slowly begin to walk them backward until you can release your forearms and eventually your whole back to the floor. Adjust the strap as needed to find comfort. Relax your arms wherever you’d like and close your eyes. Soften muscular control over your body and relax control over your breath. Surrender into this shape, allowing your strap and gravity to do all of the work for you.
Hold for about 5 minutes.
See also 7 Steps to Master Bound Angle Pose
3. Reclined Bound Lunge
Release your arms by your sides, if they’re not already there. Either press into your forearms or hold onto your strap to gradually draw yourself back up to sit. Loosen the strap (but keep it wrapped around you), take your feet out of it, and stretch your legs forward. Take any gentle movements that you feel you need to release.
Slide your strap up your spine until it’s just beneath your armpits and lie down on your back again. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor about hip-distance apart. Hug your right knee into your chest and loop the strap over your right shin. Tighten it until it holds your leg in place as it is. Stretch your left leg out long forward in front of you. Relax your arms into any place of comfort, close your eyes, and surrender to the pose and to your breath. Soften into the moment as you allow relaxation to consume you.
Hold for about 5 minutes and then slowly release and switch sides.
4. Starfish Twist
Loosen the strap (but keep it looped) and release your left leg. In any way that’s comfortable for you, remove the strap from around your back and place it next to your mat. Pause for a moment to release in a simple Savasana (Corpse Pose), relaxing your body completely as you lie down on your back.
When you’re ready, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor about hip-distance apart. Press into your feet to slightly lift your hips and scoot them toward the right side of your mat. Loop your left arm through the strap and slide it up to your shoulder. Hug your right knee toward your chest and slide the other end of the strap underneath your right knee. Tighten it until it is taut.
Stretch your left leg forward and open your arms out wide into a “T” shape. Slowly draw your right knee across the body toward the left side of your mat. Lift your left shoulder from the floor and slide your shoulder blade toward your left elbow. Allow this to help you soften both shoulders toward the floor.
You can either stay as you are or straighten your right leg—choose the option that feels more comfortable and relaxing for you. Turn your head in whichever direction feels best for your neck. Close your eyes and soften into this supine twist.
Hold for about 6 minutes, gently unwind, and repeat on the opposite side.
See also 7 Restorative Poses to Stay Grounded
5. Strapped Supta Padangusthasana
Unwind your twist and release the strap from around your leg and your shoulder. Pause for a few moments in Savasana, allowing your body weight to sink into the mat.
When you’re ready, loosen the loop of your strap until it is as wide as possible. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Hug your right knee toward your chest and hook your strap around the ball of your right foot. Stretch your right leg skyward, straightening it as much as feels comfortable.
Momentarily lift your head and chest from the floor and loop the strap around the base of your skull (directly beneath the bony protrusions of your occipital bone). Wrap the strap from the base of your skull and around above the ears so that it cradles your head like a hammock. Then, lengthen your neck and relax the weight of your head into the strap.
Adjust the tautness of the strap as needed. Allow the weight of your head to work as a pulley against the weight of your leg. Soften the weight of your femur (thigh bone) into your hip socket. Relax your arms into any place of comfort.
You can stay as you are or straighten your left leg forward to intensify the sensations of the pose. Close your eyes and slow the rhythm of your breath.
Soften into this release for about 6 minutes, mindfully release the same way that you came into the pose, and then repeat on the other side.
6. Constructive Rest Pose
Release the strap from around you (but keep it looped) and surrender into a brief Savasana (Corpse Pose).
When you’re ready, bend your knees toward your chest and loop your legs through the strap until it lands on your thighs, just above your knees. Place your feet on the floor about as wide as your mat and knock your knees in toward each other, creating internal rotation in your thighs. Tighten the strap until it is taut and holds your legs in place without having to use any muscular control.
Relax your torso to the floor and cross your arms over your chest as if giving yourself a hug, crossing your right arm underneath your left. Turn your palms to face the outer edges of your mat so that your arms can completely relax. Close your eyes and relax your breath. Draw your awareness inside and allow yourself to rest.
Hold for about 4 minutes or so before switching the cross of your arms and holding for the same amount of time on the opposite side.
When you’re ready, mindfully release the pose and carry the beneficial effects of your restorative yoga self-care practice with you throughout your day.
About the Author
Leah is a Yoga Alliance-certified teacher with over 1,500 hours of teaching experience. Learn more at leahsugerman.com.