It’s no secret that I love using the wall in my yoga practice and in my own classes. My favorite thing to hear from teachers is, “please take your mats to the wall” – it’s a signal that awesome things are going to happen. When I teach my larger bodies classes I keep the mats at the wall for the entire class. There are just so many ways to use the wall to enhance a practice. Plus – how often do you get to kick walls on purpose in a non-destructive fashion?!
One of the things that the Washington Post article highlighted was my use of wall dog as an alternative to downward facing dog. I realized I hadn’t posted about wall dog on the blog yet, so I will remedy that right now.
I always try to provide students with alternatives to downward dog because, well, it’s a darn hard pose – especially for beginners who haven’t gotten the hang of distributing some of their weight to their legs and feet. When I say that downward dog eventually becomes a resting pose, at least one student per class laughs in my face. Also, I can pretty much guarantee that downward dog will show up in almost every hatha/vinyasa type class you’ll take in the US (unless it’s a class specifically designed not to include weight bearing in the arms). Offering different options is part of my mission to make everyone feel comfortable in whatever class they take.
Wall dog is especially useful because it allows you to find the shape of downward dog and the stretch in the shoulders and the spine without putting a lot of pressure on the wrists and shoulders. It’s a great pose to do if you have compromised joints or if you just don’t feel like bearing weight on your arms. You can still strengthen the body in the pose though by engaging the core and pressing your hands into the wall.
Stand about a leg length away from the wall. You can figure out how far away you need to be by raising one leg up to about a 90 degree angle and touching the wall with your foot (the aforementioned “kicking the wall”). Both legs should be straight. For some reason, almost everyone thinks they are much shorter than they actually are, so you’ll probably need to step your feet back a bit from your original estimation of your leg length.
Hinging at the hips, fold forward with a flat back and bring your hands to the wall. If you are unable to straighten your arms you need to move your feet further away from the wall. You should be able to push into the wall with straight arms just like you would do if you were in the traditional downward dog on the floor.
Your head should be in line with your arms and try not to collapse through your core. If you are feeling the pose in your lower back then you probably need to engage the core a bit more (it’s a little easier to see in the second photo even though it’s at a weird angle). You should feel a nice stretch in the shoulders and the sides of the torso.
How about you? Do you love using the wall in your yoga practice? Did you ever laugh at a yoga teacher who suggested that downward dog is a good resting pose? Let me know in the comments!!