Ok y’all, here’s another helpful hint from the YogaCrone!
So over the years, I have picked up quite a few helpful ways to use props. Many of my students refer to me as a Prop Diva, but I think I am just a Prop Ho’ 😉
Working on a computer, cooking, gardening, driving and general stress slides our shoulder blades up and rolls them forward. Working in this position for long periods can lead to stiff shoulders, sore backs and neck pain. If you ever feel you need some help with lifting your shoulder up and away and lightening your load, use this helpful “Strap Jacket”! This is an old Iyengar prop assist that helps to move scapula away from the ears and keeps the trapezius, and rhomboids moving down.
You will need an 8+ foot yoga strap – or two short straps tied together. Take the strap behind you, and place the middle of the strap behind you and under your armpits. The strap will be at the bottom of shoulder blades, or slightly higher. Hold the strap and balance the length so there’s equal amount on both sides. Now take each strap over each shoulder, letting the ends hang down your back. Adjust the strap on your back and shoulders to fit snug, then cross the straps behind your back. This will “Cross your Heart” in the back!
Pull down on straps, moving hands towards the floor. When you pull down, your shoulder blades will move down your back, and you will feel tightly tucked into a brace. This will feel like you have “Lift and Separate” right between the shoulder blades! If the fit is not tight, the strap isn’t pulled enough, or it’s too high in back. You can tie or fasten the belt in front and wear your new “Strap Jacket” 🙂
Once you have the Strap Jacket on, try standing in Tadasana – Mountain pose. Move the tops of thighs back, as you move shins in. Bring weight into center of foot, lift your chest, and enjoy the feeling of open and supported shoulders.
For Adho Mukha Svanasana-Downward Facing Dog, keep the Strap Jacket on and get on your hands and knees in Cat pose. Place wrists under shoulders and knees under hips, drawing belly in and curling toes under. Using your abdominals, lift from the middle, raise hips and descend heels into Downward Dog. Move front ribs towards the back of body, keeping the width and lift of shoulders. Lengthen tailbone away from head and lift sitting bones up from inner legs. As the body accepts the support of the shoulders moving, the legs become stable and the organs can rejuvenate.
Experiment with standing poses – Trikonasana-Triangle, Virabhdrasana I/II-Warrior or Utthita Parsvakonasana-Right Angle Pose. They can work with the strap jacket. Use your hands on the straps while in the pose to help with alignment. Try a standing pose to the right, and pull gently forward with the right strap to increase rotation in ribs and chest. Feel how the shoulder blades work with the Strap Jacket and see if it helps keep the chest lifted and open.
The Strap Jacket can be a helpful partner to reverse the forward action of shoulders and set good alignment in your body memory. I always travel with a strap and use it on long flights to help back pain.
As with any sequence or Yoga pose, be cautious. If you have neck or shoulder injuries, please try this with supervision. If you feel pain or a pinch in the lower back, it may be over-arching in the spine, so make sure you move back into this beautiful support behind your heart!