Hitting the Wall: F L O W S

Today I’m guiding you through an 8-minute wall sequence that you can do by itself or add to any practice. In my own relationship with the physical practice, I’ve found the wall to be incredibly useful (and not just for inversions). From deepening heart openers, to stretching hamstrings and quads, the wall does it all.

Below are the key postures and how/why the wall can help.

Down Dog Split : Square Off Your Hips.
One of the biggest challenges I see in students is understanding this concept of squaring the hips.  Often we opt for lifting the leg higher by turning out or opening up the hip.  It’s not wrong, but as we start to delve deeper into the physical practice, we gain a tremendous amount of strength in the core, hamstrings, glutes, and quads that is necessary for more advanced poses when we practice down dog split with squared hips.
Practice: Tuck your toes on the wall, kicking back through heel, like you would in a plank or a lunge. As you gain more flexibility in the bottom hamstring and strength in the top glute, the leg travels higher up the wall.  As the leg lifts higher, don't compromise the core and crunch in the lower back. Keep the abdominals engaged by wrapping your bottom ribs in and pressing navel back towards spine and down.

Standing Split: Stretch Your Hamstrings
Standing Split is basically like a normal split expect you’re, you know, standing.  That means it requires a ton more strength and flexibility than when the ground supports both legs.  The wall helps cultivate both ideas.
Practice: From down dog split, crawl your hands towards the wall as you extend lifted leg higher up the wall.  Use the tucking of the top toes on the wall to provide resistance.  Engage the top glute by pushing through your heel.  Find the eccentric contraction of the top hamstring. Actively press your hands into the ground and allow that to engage arms and core.  Think about pulling the standing quad up as you encourage your hips square and standing leg closer to the wall.

Forward Fold: Tipping the Pelvic Bowl
It seems simple, but forward fold is an incredibly specific experience in the body.  It is more than just touching your toes.  The wall informs the way we forward fold.  Take a moment to feel this in your body.  Do your normal forward fold.  Now, take your hands to your hips, fingers to the hip crease, thumbs to the back.  Use your hands to tip the bowl of your pelvis forward and down.  Unless someone physically adjusts you like this, it’s easy to forget this very important element of forward fold.  The wall doesn’t let you get away with omitting this aspect of the posture.
Practice: Walk your heels against the wall.  Start with your hands far in front of toes and slowly walk the hands back towards the feet as hamstrings start to open up.  I like moving from a small lift to a deeper forward fold.  Engage quads by pulling them up towards the hip creases.  Unclench your jaw.

Handstand Prep: Find the Stack
Are you one of those people who only kick up into the wall to find handstand?  Most of the time, when we practice inversions against a wall in that way, we set ourselves up to topple over when we attempt inversions in the center of the room.  You teach your body to continually go past the stacked line.  When you practice different variations of nose to wall, there is much less collapse in the lower back and more engagement in every part of you (mind and body).
Practice: From down dog, walk both feet up the wall until you make an L with your body, legs parallel to the floor, torso perpendicular. From here, it’s most definitely scary, but check to make sure your wrists are stacked underneath your shoulders. Spoiler alert: It will feel at least 10 times harder. Wrap the bottom ribs in. Press your hands actively into the ground. Keeping the core in, extend one leg into the sky. Extend your body to two opposite directions: hands press down as top toes reach up.

Shin Up the Wall: The Deepest Quad Opening
Do you live life? If so, your quads are probably in need of some TLC.  As runner, and a person who identifies their legs as the strongest part of their body, I very frequently use my legs to do almost every activity before I think about using my upper body. That comes with a ton of quad and hip flexor tightness.  Shin up the wall, aka King Arthur, is the most effective way to self assist and find a deeper opening n quads and hip flexors.
Practice: Use either a mat or a towel against the baseboard. Slowly lower your back knee on top of the cushion and align shinbone vertically against the wall. Begin with hands on the ground, as even this much can be extremely intense.  Once you feel your body is ready you can take other variations like a lizard pose shape, climb your hands on top of your thigh, or advance it into a deep backbend by crawling your hands down the wall until you connect head and foot.

Frog/Straddle: Strengthen and Stretch Inner Thighs
Double star, highlight, mark as important.  This idea is relevant for all postures, but especially frog and straddle. Flexibility is nothing without have the strength to support yourself.  Most injuries happen on the way in and out of a posture. When our ego takes over and we push ourselves into a pose that we have not yet cultivated the strength to maneuver in and out of, BAD THINGS HAPPEN.  Using the wall as resistance, you can strengthen the inner thighs while finding more space in your groin in this fun combination of poses.
Practice: With forearms or hands on the ground, align your shinbone against the baseboard. Extend the other leg straight out into the center of the room. Walk your hands and hips back until you hips are inline with your knee, the femur bone perpendicular to the wall.  Stay and breathe many breaths. In order to support yourself, engage your glutes like you would in a malasana, press your forearms down, fire up your abs, and press into the straight-leg-foot to find a lift instead of collapse.  We want to get strong in the deepest expression of the posture instead of sinking into connective tissue.

Figure Four Glute Stretch: Open Your Hips
One of the most YUM pose to receive an adjustment in is glute openers.  This figure four shape can be troublesome for anyone who has tight glutes.  Utilize the wall as a way to self adjust, you can find length in the lower spine and a stretch in the glutes, coming closer to the truth of the posture.
Practice: lying on your back, take feet up to the wall, shinbones parallel to the earth.  Cross right ankle over the other knee. Press your left foot firmly into the wall.  Traction out your left quad and lower back by pressing the heel of your left hand forward and up at the hip crease.  Encourage a deeper opening in your right glute by pressing your right hand into right inner thigh.