Taking some of your yoga asanas to the wall can help bring a little more relaxation into those postures and it can also help make them more accessible for those with a limited range of motion. Allowing the wall to take some of the weight means you can sink into a deeper relaxation. It can be a wonderful way to help wind down the mind and the body before sleep or to ground yourself at the end of a stressful day. I especially love doing a little wall yoga to relieve my legs after finishing a long hike or being on my feet all day long. Here are my favorite poses to do on the wall. Remember, you can adjust how close you are to the wall and how high your extremities sit on the wall, to suit your body and comfort.
1. Wall Down Dog
You can get some of the same benefits as a regular Down Dog without putting too much weight on your hands and shoulders, and without dropping your head below your heart. It can be a good, gentler alternative that still provides a lengthening of the back body, stretching the hamstrings, glutes, calves, and lats, while also opening up the chest. Having your hands further up the wall will focus the stretch on the upper-back, and as you slide the hands further down the wall the stretch will shift its focus down your back. Bringing your torso nearly parallel with the floor will focus the stretch mostly on the low back, glutes, and hamstrings. Keep your knees soft and think about lengthening the spine. Imagine you are trying to extend your tailbone all the way back to the wall behind you.
2. Single-Arm Chest Stretch
Working on one arm at a time you can use the wall, or a door frame, to stretch the biceps, anterior deltoid, and pectoral muscles. By opening the chest we also relieve the tired, often overstretched, upper-back muscles. Remember to keep the shoulder relaxed down away from your ear and to keep a small bend in your elbow.
To get into position for the prone-facing wall postures, start by sitting on your mat parallel to the wall. For this first stretch you won’t want your bottom right up against the wall, so leave a hand’s width between your hip and the wall—more if you are quite tight through the hamstrings and glutes. From here, start to come down on to the elbow of the arm furthest from the wall. Then gently roll onto your back and bring your knees toward your chest. Now you are all set to bring your feet onto the wall and transition into your first pose. You can always scoot your bottom a bit further away or a bit closer to the wall as needed.
3. Keyhole Stretch on the Wall
By allowing the wall to take the weight of the bottom leg, the arms and shoulders are free to fully relax on the mat. It also tends to let the legs and hips soften—bringing a deeper release. Taking your foot further up the wall will ease the stretch.
4. Butterfly on the Wall
Extending the legs up the wall helps counter the effects of gravity on our lower body and soothes tired legs and feet. Using the wall can also make this pose more accessible to those with tight abductors, glutes, and hamstrings, and to those who have trouble comfortably maintaining the seated version of this pose. Much like the Keyhole Stretch, taking the feet further up the wall will ease the intensity of the stretch.
5. Legs Up the Wall
With the wall supporting the full weight of both legs, the muscles really get a chance to relax here. It gives a gentle stretch to the back body while relieving the feet, legs, and low back. If the stretch feels too intense down the back of the legs, scoot yourself a little further back from the wall. You can also bend the knees as much as you need to be comfortable in this position.
6. Apanasana on the Wall
A nice way to come out of Legs Up the Wall is to hug your knees to your chest in Apanasana, leaving the feet resting on the wall. Again, this can be a good alternative to those who are tight through the back body— especially the glutes. You can let the wall support the feet and lower legs and not even necessarily use your arms at all.
To return to an upright position after spending some time inverted on the wall, gently roll on to your side out of Apananasa. Take a few breaths here before slowly pushing yourself up to a seated position. You may want to take a few more breaths in a comfortable seated position before coming up to standing, to avoid getting dizzy or lightheaded. This is a great opportunity for a few minutes of meditation before returning to your day or climbing into bed for a good night’s rest.