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Using the Wall in Yoga

by Linda Freeman-Webster on Aug 20, 2018

As a yoga teacher, you guide participants through a practice that deepens their understanding of asanas (poses) and how these take shape in students’ bodies. You cue, coach, align, adjust, demonstrate and discuss, and you offer tips on breathing, anatomy, “feel” and sensation. Often, the most effective way to help participants understand a specific element is to slow down, grab a prop or two, and work a little deeper. You may have access to straps, blocks and bolsters, but you might be forgetting another perfect “prop”: the wall.

The wall is an effective and versatile tool that can be easily integrated into classes and private sessions. If you’re teaching a flow practice, you can instruct participants to set their mats right up against the wall and incorporate it into the sequence. If space is limited, bring students to the wall to do focused work a few at a time. The proprioceptive feedback will often help a yogi to “get it” when all your cues and hands-on adjustments don’t. In your next class, try the following options and cuing suggestions for teaching yoga at the wall.

Standing Forward Fold

The goals here are to teach participants how to connect with the core, how to keep the sit bones over the heels, and how to engage the quads while keeping the legs straight. Many students will immediately push their buttocks back into the wall and feel they are going to fall forward—this creates awareness and gives them feedback about their hamstring flexibility. Try these cues:

  • Stand with your back to the wall, feet together, approximately 4–6 inches from the wall. Keep the heels under the sit bones and have no contact with the wall.
  • Exhale, arms by your sides, and slowly fold forward by hinging at the hips, keeping the spine lengthened, quads engaged and knees neutral.
  • If needed, lightly place your hands on the wall for balance as you fold, but don’t let the sacrum or buttocks touch the wall.
  • Go slowly and control the pace, stopping and settling in when you can no longer keep the knees neutral.
  • If you have extremely limited hamstring flexibility, step away from the wall and find the placement that works best for you. Put a block behind your heels to create space and give yourself something to feel at the back of the feet.

Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)

In this pose, placing the foot against the wall helps with balance and grounding, enabling participants to focus on the hips without worrying about the balance element. Try these cues:

  • Stand approximately leg length away from the wall. The right foot faces forward.
  • Place a block slightly forward and to the R side of the R foot.
  • Place the R hand on the block, reach back with the left foot and place it on the wall, toes facing L, with R knee slightly bent.
  • Engage the R quadriceps as you straighten the R leg and rotate the R hip underneath.
  • Press the L foot firmly onto the wall, engage the L quadriceps and straighten the leg.
  • Let both the R rib cage and the R shoulder rotate underneath, following the motion of the R hip, as the L side of the body opens and aligns over the R side.
  • Finish the pose by reaching the L hand to the ceiling and softly gazing toward the L hand. (Note: This is a great place to work in and out of the R hip rotation without worrying about the “finished” posture.)
  • Repeat, opposite side.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana B)

For this pose, turn the mat lengthwise against the wall. As students bring their feet and legs into warrior II, the outside edge of the front foot and knee are just far enough from the wall that a block can fit between the knee and the wall. Try these cues:

  • Align the back heel with the front heel (or have them slightly wider apart if needed), and turn the back toes slightly forward.
  • Press the front knee firmly into the block and hold it against the wall; at the same time, externally rotate the front hip so it moves down, under and away from the wall.
  • Try to keep the front hip off the wall; notice the opening in the front of the hip and groin.
  • Lift the inner back leg while rooting into the back edge of the foot, keeping the back knee straight.
  • Reach both arms outward in line with the legs. The shoulder blades should be equal distance from the wall. (Note: Place an additional block behind the back shoulder blade or use your hand to give students tactile feedback.)
  • Switch sides.

For more exercises, please see “Teaching Yoga at the Wall” the online IDEA Library or in the June 2018 print edition of Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.

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About the Author

Linda Freeman-Webster

Linda Freeman-Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Linda L. Freeman—IDEA Master Personal Trainer, author and frequent IDEA presenter—loves to fuse formats and share new ideas with other fitness colleagues. Owner of Guru Fitness® LLC, she presents workshops worldwide and stars in multiple fitness DVDs.