Think of the walls of your house: strong, sturdy and providing a solid foundation upon which the rest of the dwelling can be built. The wall can provide the same service to our yoga practice – a strong foundation onto which the rest of the yoga posture can be built.
There are many simple ways in which the wall can assist your practice:
1. In seated postures, the wall can provide a support for the back while encouraging a lift in the spine and torso. You will become aware if you are slumping forward if the shoulders come away from the wall. Likewise, it can prevent that “dump” in the lower back that can happen when we are fatigued or not concentrating on our posture. Any seated posture can be taken to the wall, including an easy cross-legged posture (Sukhasana) or butterfly pose (Baddha Konasana).
2. The wall can benefit balancing poses, which can be very challenging. For example, if we are unstable and struggling to remain upright in Vrksasana (Tree Pose), we can lose many of the actions of the pose. By moving to the wall with either your back lightly against the wall or one hand to the wall, you gain extra stability so you can focus on the lift through the spine and torso, and the opening of the hips. Even at the wall, you can continue to work on balance by grounding through the legs.
3. In standing postures, the wall can allow for greater range of motion. An example of this is Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose). Practicing the pose with your back against the wall allows you to really rotate in the torso and stack your shoulders and hips. You can rotate fully by opening up into the wall. This degree of rotation can be difficult while balancing on one leg! Another variation is to place the lifted back foot against the wall. The contact of the foot against the wall is a great reminder to keep the “life” in the back leg and to strongly extend through the heel, providing extra support that allows the body to open more fully.
However, one of the ultimate uses of the wall in your yoga practice is with a wall rope system. Rope work is called “Yoga Kurunta” and is often associated with the Iyengar school of yoga. Kuranta is loosely translated as a puppet, or a wood doll supported by strings. In Geeta Iyengar’s book, “Yoga: A Gem for Women,” she states, “In Yoga Kurunta, one learns to manipulate oneself in the various yoga postures by means of a suspended rope as if one were a puppet. Here the puppeteer and puppet are one, performing their own puppet show.”
Yoga Kurunta is useful for new students and experienced students alike. It can help students become more aware of the orientation and position of their body and can bring a fresh perspective and awareness to the practice.
Students can experience greater opening and expansion while still strengthening the body, and it allows the more intense postures to be safely experienced.
For example, Yoga Kurunta is especially helpful for inversions and backbends, which many people are hesitant to practice. The ropes can help one feel more stable and secure. In this variation of Sirsasana (headstand,) the body is allowed to completely release without the weight of the body resting on the head. Rope poses are especially beneficial for spine health through use of traction to relieve pressure from compressed vertebral discs.
The support and the traction allows you to feel postures in a new way. Even the most experienced practitioners have something to learn in basic postures like Triangle (Trikonsana). With the support of the ropes, one can also hold postures for a longer period of time.
The wall is a powerful tool. Whether you clear a space in your living room to use the wall, or have access to a full yoga rope system, take the opportunity to experience your yoga practice in a new supported way!