The strap jacket isn’t a prop that fixes anything. I’ve abolished the posture police. In my virtual studio, it’s safe to show up as you are, in the shape that you come, and wear your strap anyway you like.
As with all of my teaching, though, I like to have a direction whenever I use a prop for practice. It’s both a portal of possibility and a way to focus my attention—and the strap is doing the same thing here. It’s a creative PROPosal (get it?) to focus awareness on “what else is possible?” and not just “how can I have the ‘right’ alignment in my spine?”
In particular, the way I’ll suggest playing with the strap here will offer “feel-back,” so you can feel your back and that confluence of joints—thoracic spine (upper back joints) and scapulothoracic (where your shoulder blades glide on your upper back). With more awareness of this part of the body, the strap jacket will provide a squeeze and massage as well as a clear sense of direction for many postures where you may want to work on thoracic extension (or anti-thoracic flexion).
Strap Jacket Variations
Start by putting the jacket on. To do this, hold the strap long ways behind your shoulders, then snuggle it up into your armpits. Lift both ends of the strap straight up toward the ceiling, then criss-cross them so they make an X across the back. Hold onto the ends of the strap (which will now be switched in your hands), and pull down for the “feel-back” effect in the shoulders and thoracic spine area.
With the strap jacket, the shoulder blades and upper spine are in a more secure position, which allows me to feel more core control and length as I come into the shape. The hip hinge becomes clearer as it’s made distinct from a side bend that can easily take place in this posture.
Notice what happens when you’re wearing the strap in these postures:
1. Prasarita padottanasana: The strap jacket allows me to highlight the hip hinge as a distinct occurrence rather than blending it with thoracic flexion and shoulder blade elevation.
2. Prone back bends: Since I already needed to extend my thoracic spine in cobra and bow, the strap highlights those actions, paving the way for me in my mental map, and seriously enhancing my proprioception. Pulling up on the strap assists the lift of the thoracic spine in these shapes even as it makes me aware of what muscles need to engage to arrive in the pose. How convenient!
3. Bridge pose: Flipping over, there’s a similar experience to the prone backbends, but there’s more passive spinal extension since the backbend is driven more from the legs here.
We explore these strap jacket “looks” and more in my class called “You and a Belt,” part of the “One Prop, Many Possibilities” series in my virtual studio. Check it out, along with even more ways to play with props (including weights, kettlebells, and massage balls!) to expand your movement diet.