Hitting the Wall

When you think of an asana practice, what comes to mind? Probably a mat in the middle of a studio, potentially some blocks, and a strap, a sequence that stays within the boundaries of the mat. Perhaps once in a long while, a teacher asks you bring your mat to the wall.  The wall is one of my favorite tools in my asana practice. Beyond inversions, the wall provides support, a boundary, something to push against, as a training tool to understand the engagement necessary for each posture. Today, I'm showing you three of my favorite wall asanas. 

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Shin Up the Wall (and variations) - I am a runner, and a distance runner at that.  Pre glute injury, it wasn’t uncommon for me to rack up between 55 and 65 miles a week.  All my runners, or spinners, or life livers, out there know how tight hip flexors and quads can get.  Shin Up the Wall is both my most hated and loved way to use the wall because it asks for a deeper and assisted opening in those areas of the body.  Start by placing your mat or a small hand towel agains the floorboard. Put your knee on top of that cushion and move your body back until your shin is pressed against the wall, toes pointed. Your front foot is far enough away where the knee stacks on top of ankle. Hands start on the ground as you breathe into the opening.  After a minimum of five breaths, crawl both hands on top of the front thigh and breathe. Looking for an inner thigh opening similar to wide low lunge?  Take a wider stance, bring your forearms down to the ground like you would in a lizard pose. Feeling open and ready to take it into a deep back bend (like the variation pictured)? Amazing! Once you’ve brought your torso upright, reach arms up and over head, tilt heart up to the sky.  Allow your hands to find the wall behind you and climb down until your foot meets your head (or whatever depth is appropriate for your body that day).

Standing Split - The perfect compliment to Shin Up the Wall, Standing Split offers a release to the hamstrings. Starting in down dog, butt to the wall, extend one leg up to the sky for down dog split. Start to walk hand and foot backward until the toes on the extended leg find the wall. Once contact is made, slowly start to deep the posture by crawling hands closer to standing leg, and standing leg closer to the wall.  Each time you find yourself at a new depth, take five breaths to allow your body to acclimate, release tension, and expand.

The other way to explore this posture is via nose-to-wall handstand practice. Begin in a pike position, hands on the floor both feet on the wall. Walk feet up the wall and hands closer to the wall until your belly is flat agains the wall.  Hold for minimally five breaths. Walk hands a few palm prints forward.  Lower one foot to the floor, finding standing split.    

Half Frog, Half Straddle - Got some hip stuff?  You will love this, also potentially hate it while it’s happening, but ultimately love the way you feel after. Similar to Shin Up the Wall, place either your yoga mat or a hand towel against the baseboard. Approach the wall profile.  Line up your shin bone agains the wall horizontally, like in a frog pose.  The other leg extends out towards the center of the room, like in a skandasana or straddle.  Eventually, the pelvis will touch the ground.  If, like me, you’ve still got a ways to go before that happens, no worries.  Bring your forearms to the ground and breathe. Many breaths. 

How do you use the wall in your practice?
Later this week, a wall flow!