Have you ever been to a yin yoga class using the wall for your postures?
It is a game changer!
Using the wall in class is great if you don't have access to a lot of props.
It is also a wonderful way to explore well known yin yoga postures from a different perspective.
Some of your much loved yin yoga postures might feel a whole lot more interesting at the wall, and some you might prefer to do the way you have always done them.
Here are three of my favourite yin yoga poses to do using the wall:
How do you do it?
Ordinarily Dangling pose is done free standing in the room.
We fold the upper body over the lower body to stretch and lengthen the entire back body from feet to skull. The knees can be straight or bent, depending on what you feel and/or what you need. The hands might be propped with a bolster underneath them if this is more supportive on the back of the body.
Dangling pose can be practiced at the wall in one of two ways:
You can lean back into the wall and let your buttocks press into the wall and then fold forward. Play around with how wide apart your feet are, and how close or far away from the wall your feet are.
Another option is to turn around and face the wall, start a few metres away from the wall, and then fold the body down into dangling and slowly walk your mid back in to press against the wall.
Note: Option 2 can be quite intense for people, as it can feel very closed in once you are in the posture. If that feeling arises, it is good to be reminded that to come out of the pose you will need to stay in your dangling shape and walk away from the wall slowly (still folded over), until you have enough space to gently squat down to gather your bearings, or use your hands to help walk yourself up the wall to standing.
Follow up your wall dangling with some time in a rebound; whether you sit or stand and lean your back into the wall, or come all the way down to the floor for a Savasana type rebound.
Why do I love it?
I love the extra feeling of support that the wall offers.
My preference is usually option 1 of the wall options. The wall gives me a feeling in my body where my legs are relieved of some of the sensation of holding the shape, which allows me to let go of more effort.
The wall also helps me to release more of my thoracic region during the posture.
Shoelace is a floor based shape that has great potential for stretching and opening up space along the outer legs and into the outer aspects of the glutes.
Some people like to do this on the floor and keep the spine lifted, and others will add a forward fold; letting their upper body drape down over the legs which can intensify those lower body sensations quite a bit.
There are also lots of people that find this shape very awkward to get into, even if they are using props to support their body. Which is one of the reasons that using the wall for yin yoga postures can give someone brand new access to regions of their body that other floor based postures simply have not been able to provide.
How do you do it?
I have heard a few different instructions on how to get into this shape. My preference is to start on all fours, and bring one knee through and place it on the mat. I then extend the other leg back behind me so that my back knee is lifted, and then I wiggle the foot of the front knee a bit closer to the opposite side of the mat, and attempt to then slide the back knee in behind the front knee. That sounds complicated right? Try it as you read the words and see if the doing helps make more sense of my instruction.
I find it super helpful to have a yoga block nearby for this shape. Often when people attempt to sit back between their feet it does not feel good. And in particular, if you attempt to do that and you get a strong protest in your knees, it is a sign that your hips need to be a little higher. Sitting on the block is a great way to bring the ground up a little higher to meet your sit bones (and take any necessary stress out of your knees).
Shoelace at the wall however, is a bit different.
Like any yin posture taken to the wall, flipping it upside down, takes the upper body out of the equation entirely.
This can be a huge relief if the lower back feels stuck, or if hamstrings are chronically tight, or a shape just feels awkward.
To practice Shoelace at the wall, sit on the floor and wiggle yourself in fairly close to the wall. Bend your knees and place both feet on the wall, loosely at a 90 degree angle to the floor.
Then lift up your hips slowly, float one foot off the wall, and cross that leg over the other leg, before slowly lowering yourself back down.
How tight or loose the wrapping of the legs is entirely up to you. What you feel, and the intensity that feels right for you. It will be different from person to person.
How you might make this experience a little lighter:
The more space between your buttocks and the wall, the less intense this experience will likely be. Especially if there is any nervousness around knee pain, or hip pain. Also, your hands are free to cradle the legs and knees in any way that feels more supportive.
How you might make this pose a little bit more intense:
The closer your buttocks are to the wall, the more intense this could be for you in terms of sensation. (But of course, this will depend on the uniqueness of you, your bone lengths, the history of your tissues, your gender etc). Once your legs are crossed you can play with letting them roll to one side or the other and see how that feels. The key is to experiment for yourself, slowly and mindfully, and be present to what is happening when it is happening.
A lovely rebound after shoelace at the wall is to slide both legs up the wall and let them rest there for a minute or two.
Why do I love it?
Out of all the possible yin yoga shapes that explore the glutes and outer legs, this wall version of Shoelace is the most deeply satisfying for me.
A self confessed sensation junkie, I find this version helps me to access layers of the glute region that I can't seem to access in other shapes such as Sleeping Swan, Deer pose, or Figure Four.
I also love, that if a student is in this shape, and the sensation is too strong, they dont have to get up off the floor to find another pose, they can just slide themselves away from the wall a little bit until it feels more easeful.
How do you do it?
Frog pose is a yin yoga shape that offers a deep stretch of the inner thigh region and the dense tissues around the hip joint. The degree of where and how much you feel this is usually relative to where your hips are in relation to your knees.
Start by coming up onto all fours and widen your knees until you begin to feel stretch-like sensations in the inner thighs and deep hip areas.
Often it is very supportive to have a large yoga bolster or cushion under the chest and belly to sink into.
There are no hard and fast rules about what your "alignment" should be. It is perfectly fine if for you, the hips are forward beyond the line of the knees, or if your hips are back close to your feet, or even if you have your feet closer together.
The areas of the body, what you feel in them, and how much you are feeling, are the parameters in which to make personal choices about your "alignment".
Frog at the wall, is another shape that we tip upside down.
Bring yourself in close to the wall, and place your feet up on the wall. Then have a play with gravity letting your knees open out to the sides. Some people like the roll the outer blades of the feet onto the wall. Others simply like to explore how close together or wide apart to have their feet, in order to feel enough of a satisfying sensation in the above mentioned target areas; inner thighs and deep hip joints.
Little tips for extra support:
If the deep inner hip sensation is too strong, try wedging a yoga block, or rolled up blanket under each thigh (close to the hip joint) for the femur bone to rest on. It should make this feel a bit sweeter.
When coming out of this pose, it is really helpful to bend your knees deeply, and use both hands to help roll your knees into your chest, before sliding the legs back up the wall for your rebound.
Why do I love it?
Honestly, it just feels so nice to let gravity assist me in the practice. Feeling the firmness of my back against the floor and the support of the wall under me feet gives me a feeling of being really held.
There are lots of other yin yoga postures that are perfect to explore using the wall.
If you enjoy experimenting with these three favourites of mine, spend some time exploring with some of your own favourites and see how the wall can change your experience of yin yoga, and help you fall even more in love with the practice.
Love Karina x