This Yoga Prop Will Finally Open Up Those Tight Hips

It's no secret that most bodies love yoga.

For more than 3,000 years, the practice of yoga has increased the strength, flexibility, and mobility of millions around the world while also centering and calming the minds of countless others. The very word yoga stems from the Sanskrit root yuj, which translates to "union," or to "yolk or join." Although this relates to the union of the body and the mind, we're expanding upon the idea of yuj to unite you with a powerful tool that will make your tight muscles sigh with pleasure.

This tool is the yoga strap.

You may have seen this bandlike contraption wrapped around yogis performing feats of impossible flexibility, but don't let that scare you off. Yoga straps are an inexpensive tool everybody will benefit from and will help you deepen even the most simple of stretches.

Below, you'll find a list of exercises united with the yoga strap for the ultimate tension-releasing and posture-loving benefits.

1. Half hero forward fold

Photo: Yuri Elkaim

This stretch will reach deep into your hamstrings and quadriceps, while the forward fold will also help loosen a tight lower back. You may need to place a yoga block beneath the glute of your extended leg depending upon your level of flexibility.

Begin on the floor, one leg folded beneath you and the other extended in front of you. If you're using a block, place it beneath the glute of your extended leg and against your opposite ankle. Wrap your strap around your low back and the sole of your extended foot.

You can stay here if you're feeling a deep enough stretch, or you can begin to fold your upper body over your extended leg.

Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch legs.

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2. Piriformis yoga-strap stretch

Photo: Yuri Elkaim

Our piriformis muscle, which runs down through our glutes, can often get extremely tight due to excessive sitting. This stretch relaxes and lengthens this overlooked muscle.

Begin by wrapping your strap around your left thigh as you lie on your back on the floor. Then cross your right foot over your left so that your ankle is resting on your left thigh. Keep your left leg bent at a 90-degree angle with your foot flat on the floor and your right foot flexed.

You may already feel a stretch alongside your outer hip. You can either stay here or deepen the stretch by lifting your left leg off the floor, gently pulling it toward you with the strap.

Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch legs.

3. Cow-face pose

Photo: Yuri Elkaim

Do you feel like you need a massage every day after sitting for extended periods of time? While this stretch isn't a massage, it will certainly relieve any muscle tension in your upper back and shoulders. Begin seated or standing. Holding your strap in your right hand, lift your arm until your elbow is by your ear, letting the strap dangle behind you.

Now, reach behind with your left hand and grab the belt. Gently pull on both sides of the strap as you feel your shoulder and triceps opening.

After about 10 to 15 pulls, switch arms.

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4. Bound angle pose

Photo: Yuri Elkaim

Bound angle pose stretches out the inner thighs (which feels heavenly!). Adding a strap deepens the stretch, giving you more flexibility in movements that require rotation. Begin sitting tall, soles of your feet touching and knees out to your sides.

Wrap your strap around your torso and under your feet. Recline onto your back if you can (you may need to loosen the strap slightly). Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds.

5. Reclined big-toe pose with external rotation.

Photo: Yuri Elkaim

The external rotation of the hips in this pose stretches your inner thighs and opens your hamstrings. Begin lying on your back on the floor.

Now loop the strap around your right foot. Using your right arm, drag your extended right leg out to your right side. Be sure to keep your back flat on the floor, avoiding lifting your opposite hip.

Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch legs.

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6. Revolving reclined big-toe pose.

Photo: Yuri Elkaim

This pose opens the outer hip, upper and lower back, and shoulders, making it an excellent way to end a practice or workout.

Begin lying on your back on the floor. Loop your strap around your right foot. Now, drag your right leg over your left (the right hip will lift off the ground) and extend it fully to the side. Keep your upper body flat on the ground and reach your right arm in the opposite direction.

Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.

7. Pigeon with quadriceps stretch

Photo: Yuri Elkaim

This is an intense strap stretch that loosens the piriformis muscle that runs through your glutes, you hip flexors, and your quadriceps all in one. Begin by coming into pigeon pose, extending your right leg behind you while folding your left at an angle in front of you (note that this stretch is difficult at first—don't worry if it takes you a little while to develop the flexibility to get here!).

Now, lift your right foot toward your back and drape your strap around it. Pull gently forward with your hands, feeling the deep stretch in your quad and hip flexor. To go even farther, you can lower your upper body all the way to the floor in front of you.

Hold for 15 t 30 seconds, then switch legs.

As you can see, a yoga strap helps you stretch even deeper into areas of tension all over your body, discovering the yuj between happy muscles and a happy mind. As a bonus, working with a yoga strap could also help improve your posture and even increase performance by extending your range of motion.

If you're looking for more yoga strap exercises with video instructions, head over to my website.

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