In this article, I unpack all the ‘Hows’ and ‘Whys’ of practicing Yoga while using the wall as your prop.
The wall was always one of my favourite props! In my practice and teaching I use the wall to:
- improve my alignment by gaining perspective using a solid reference point
- increase the amount of time I can hold postures by using the full support of a still prop
- experience depth in my postures as I work with resistance against an unforgiving surface
On supported practice
Over the years, I experimented a lot with the idea of supported practice. Whether I use a wall, a block, a strap or try a Yoga pose in pairs – I always find something new about myself in the posture by presenting my body with a new variation or an assist. If a prop helps me hold still in a pose or make one of the challenging alignment cues in it easy, then I have more time and space to learn the other aspects of the posture.
For example, look at image 1 (Downward facing dog with the wall). In this variation, the wall holds my heels still as well as elevating them off the floor. This reduces the pressure on my hamstrings because I am no longer struggling to try and touch the floor with my heels. As a result, my legs can relax (they naturally feel longer without me trying to elongate them) and I can focus on creating length in other parts of my body – for example, my back.
This is the magic of supported practice: we support one part of the body to allow other parts the space to improve in reaching the alignment of the pose.
Why do I like using the wall in particular?
The wall is a very solid, still and an unforgiving prop. You can’t really ‘cheat’ with the wall and move it a little bit further away or turn it in a more comfortable angle to avoid ‘facing’ the pose. It can really teach you a lot about your practice!
Let’s look again at the three main uses of the wall I’ve outlined at the start of this article:
- Using the wall to gain perspective on the alignment of a pose.
In Parshvutanasanaagainst the wall (Image 2), assuming the wall is straight, you can observe how even your hip bones are in their distance from the wall. The alignment of the pose calls to have the hips squared to the front, and by comparing your posture against the wall you can work towards achieving this alignment cue in your body.
- Using the wall to increase the length of your hold.
In Utanasanaagainst the wall (look at the variation in image 3), the body is fully leaning against the wall and is held in a relaxed position. The wall is still and not changing, regardless to your level of flexibility and how you change throughout your hold. Even if during your hold you will feel that you can reach lower and stretch deeper, the wall will stay a solid, unmoving support.
It really allows you to relax completely as there is no action required from you in the pose – when you are completely comfortable, you can hold the posture for a very long period of time and simply enjoy its benefits.
3. Reach deep stretches by resisting an unforgiving surface.
In a seated twist against the wall (image 4), you can experience a higher range of movement in your shoulder compared to twisting without support. As your palm pushes the wall it creates a strong resistance and allows you to reach quite a deep layer of the pose on the physical level.
Where do you start?
Here is a beautiful wall sequence for you to enjoy:
*You will benefit more from your practice if you will try these postures for the first time with a qualified teacher. To avoid risk of injury, it is recommended to always practice Yoga guided by a teacher. (You are always welcome in my classes here in Prahran!)
Repeat pose 1+2 few times, following the natural rhythm of your breath.
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