02/10/2015 03:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Yoga: Using the Wall Effectively


For years now it feels like in every class I'm encouraging my students away from the wall. After all, you can't take the wall with you without creating some serious new blockage. However, this past winter I injured my hand (tore ligaments flying into crane pose), and it's forced me to completely change my practice. I'm taking this as an opportunity to work on something that always felt like I'd have to work so hard to get there it couldn't be but about striving and ambition -- scorpion with toes touching the head (as beautifully demonstrated by the woman pictured above on the left, rivkayoga, whom I "know" through Instagram).

With the injury I'm always on my forearms instead of my hands. I wanted to start playing with that balance. Sure, I can drop into a kind of scorpion (a backbend from forearm balance), but when I saw the picture above, with its perfect squares, I realized the wall would be a wonderful tool for taking the pose deeper. It's important to note: I can already balance in forearm stand. This is not how I'm finding balance. I'm physically using the wall to open in my chest and shoulders and quads.

What I realized is, I've been missing out on a whole world of help! As much as this path is not about the destination, it is about the journey. Accepting help from a place of appreciation rather than fear is very different. I am grateful to my many teachers, whether they were in a traditional teacher role or not (yes, I mean my students, too). Not that it's always clear when I'm in it. The question I'm learning to ask is whether I feel depleted by help, or empowered by it. And then I know.

To prep for this pose, when you are warmed up enough, from a low lunge, drop the knee to the floor and press the hips forward to open in the psoas on each side. Open in the hips using pigeon and split pose on both sides. Open in the shoulders with bound triangle on both sides. Finally, go to the wall, get as close as you are able, and walk your hands down the wall into wheel, inching your chin ever closer to the wall.

Check out my blog for more tips on trying this yourself. Click here to see the image that inspired me, and then my first attempt -- complete with scratching my nose while I think about it and a flying iPad...


What is wrong in this attempt:

I'm too far away from the wall. However, I'm not open enough to be closer yet. Slowly, I'll inch closer.

What is right in this attempt:

The maneuver is all about pressing the hips forward while slowly moving the legs back.

And stay tuned, I've obviously got a long way to go on this...