Most yoga instructors know how to use straps and blocks to guide students through challenging poses or to teach alignment. Some instructors, however, may not have access to props or, if they do, there may not be enough to go around. There is one piece of “equipment,” however, that often gets underused, and that’s the wall. Consider these suggestions to make the most of the wall in class.
Warm-Up (15 minutes)
Have participants align their mats vertically, a few inches from the wall. Students will begin by facing the wall, standing in mountain pose. If your walls are mirrored, ask participants to close their eyes. Cue them to anchor through the four corners of their feet, roll onto the inner and outer edges, lift their arches and generally become aware of the beginning of their kinetic chain. Then have them engage the muscles of the lower legs, lift the kneecaps using the front thigh muscles, and fire up the thighs (without hyperextending the knees). Cue students to lengthen the spine and engage the abdominals, and then lift through the crown of the head, broaden the chest, and place the shoulders in their sockets.
After a few minutes, ask participants to open their eyes, turn around and stand at the top of the mats, facing into the classroom. This setup allows for a sense of community and sharing, so make sure your class has a rapport. Alternatively, have people move their mats a few feet from the wall and face away from the room, allowing for a more personal, introspective workout. Guide them through a sun salutation series and gentle poses to warm the body. Because your participants are not necessarily facing you, you must provide accurate cues, especially regarding right and left sides.
Sample Series (10-15 minutes)
The purpose of this series is to create more heat in the body. Students face the wall.
- Warrior 1. Engage inner and outer thighs to keep knees from crossing midline or falling out to sides. Front knee is over ankle, toes spread, glutes active. Back foot is at comfortable angle, aligned with knee and hip. (If walls are mirrored, have students study their alignment, paying particular attention to placement of knees.) Arms are lifted or in prayer position at heart center. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.
- Warrior 3. Fall gracefully into this pose, placing fingertips against wall. Extend all the way through lifted leg into toes. Establish solid base in standing leg, and drop heart toward front of rib cage, lengthening spine and back of neck. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.
- Tree Pose. Lift torso while drawing the back leg into tree pose. Hips are level, and foot presses on inner thigh, not against knee. Arms can be in prayer position or clasped overhead. (Modification: Bring arms straight forward to touch wall.) Hold for 10 breaths.
- Transitional Vinyasa. For this vinyasa, return to mountain pose, inhale arms up, exhale forward fold, inhale spinal extension, exhale step back into plank, inhale hold, exhale chaturanga dandasana/hover, inhale upward-facing dog, exhale downward-facing dog.
- Hold downward-facing dog for 5-10 breaths. Repeat series on opposite side.
For examples of more yoga series using the wall, please see the full article, “Sample Class: Wall Yoga,” in the June 2009 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal or online in the IDEA Library.
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