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Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar 201: The Strap Trick You Need to Try to Release Your Neck Tension

Try this strap trick to increase postural awareness in the upper back and shoulders—and relieve the excess tension that accumulates there.

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Join Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher Carrie Owerko for our new online course Iyengar 201—a mindful and fun journey into a more advanced practice. You’ll learn different pose modifications and creative uses for props, all designed to help you work with physical and mental challenges. And you’ll walk away with the skills you need to adapt to whatever life throws at you, on and off the mat. Sign up now.

In Iyengar Yoga, we use props to provide support, increase awareness, and help relieve excessive or unnecessary tension in the body. We also use props to provide traction, help stabilize, facilitate better breathing, reduce pain, and bring more ease to the nervous system. The props can be like teachers or good friends—they can give you a sense of direction or even a wake-up call.

One of the simplest and most effectively employed props in Iyengar Yoga is the yoga belt or strap. Yoga belts are lightweight, extremely versatile, and easy to transport. They can be used in what feels like an infinite number of ways.

The particular use of the strap shown in the photo above (explained below) can be employed in many poses, or even when you’re sitting at your desk. The belt helps increase postural awareness and highlights the uppermost back and shoulder regions of the body, which are often hunched over computers and handheld devices. It also helps relieve the excessive tension that can accumulate in muscles of the upper back, neck, and shoulders. Students often report feelings of spaciousness and length in the neck after using the belt in this manner—almost as if they have received a type of cervical traction. It’s amazing how such a small prop can have such a huge and powerful impact!

Try this Strap Trick in Salabhasana (Locust Pose)  

You will need: A yoga belt or strap; a bolster or rolled blanket.

1. Take a long yoga belt or two shorter belts and buckle them together to create a long belt. Place the belt across your back at the bottom of your shoulder blades. Pull the ends of the belt so that it feel snug across your shoulder blades, then take the ends up the front of your armpits, over the tops of your shoulders near the neck, then recross the straps across your upper back. Pull down and out slightly on the ends of the belt and observe the changes in your upper back neck and shoulder regions.

2. Place a bolster or rolled blanket under your abdominal area in a prone position with your legs hip-width apart. Press your legs down into the floor and engage the muscles of your legs, hips, buttocks, and lower abdomen, and press your pubic bone down toward the floor. Bend your elbows, walk your hands up on the strap, and as you inhale, begin to straighten your arms as you pull on the ends of the belt to help lift your chest and upper back away from the floor. Keep your legs and buttocks actively engaged as you exhale and continue to pull back on the ends of the belt with your hands. Roll your shoulders back and down away from your ears. Let the lift of your chest precede the lift of your head. Stay here for a few breaths. Then exhale and slowly bend your elbows to come out of the pose. Rest and repeat the pose a few times.

Want to learn more creative ways to use the yoga belt and other props? Sign up for Iyengar 201 now!