Hamilton Yoga Blog
The Wall is Our Friend in Iyengar Yoga
In our yoga classes, we often use the wall as a prop. Students are familiar with this prop from the very start when first coming to our classes. At Hamilton Yoga, we often start beginners in relaxation with their legs up the wall, an easy and effective way to quieten the mind, without too much fuss required for new students to set up at the beginning of the class.
We orientate our bodies in the room facing or turning away from the wall, we use it as a first introduction to dog pose with palm flat at the wall for half dog pose. It can be used for back support or a hand in balancing poses such as Vrksasana, Tree Pose.
It is almost unthinkable to teach without this point of reference in the yoga studio, unimaginable to practice yoga without that vertical and firm surface the wall offers.
There may well be times when we seek the experience of the independent and unsupported asana, away from all props. What does our body tell us? Do we ‘feel’ aligned only or is this a misperception?
When talking about the alignment of our bodies, many of our students throughout the different levels of classes hear me say regularly: “The wall does not lie”. A wall can rectify a wrong perception of alignment, we can learn from the feedback we receive, and work with it.
In one of our recent week’s sequence of standing poses, we have used the wall for reference and support for Trikonasana, VirabhadrasanaII, Parsvakonasana, and Ardha chandrasana. We always have plenty of fun and many personal insights to the workings of the poses by adjusting each other in partner work against the wall.
There is possibly no better reference than a wall that can give your body that kind of accurate feedback. We take note of body contact withthe wall's surface or the lack thereof, illuminating areas of limited awareness or where excessive engagement is felt.
Relying on and embracing the wall’s presence can allow us to concentrate, away from external diversions. Resting against the wall with parts of our body cultivates an inward focus, creating that calming effect on our nervous system.
As a stable surface, the wall can offer support both physically and psychologically, allowing us to explore and deepen our yoga practice with confidence. A classic progressive achievement with help of a wall is handstand or variations of it (Adho Mukha Vrksasana, or upside-down tree). Until we have developed the confidence, strength, and technique the wall is there to support the process.
When using the wall, we bring attention to how our body feels in each pose. Using the wall as a tool, a reference point, can enhance our awareness of alignment, as well as our breath, and many other sensations while working deeper into a pose. The wall provides an invaluable support, guarding overexertion when sustaining poses for an extended time.
Of course, the wall is always there as a loyal and dependable friend, as reference, as support, or as a drawback when energy levels are lower, i.e., during menstruation or during recovery from injury when more restorative work is required.
The wall is probably one of the most versatile props that can be used in yoga based on our individual needs. It provides gentle support, is great for restorative work, or can provide that extra challenge. Making use of this in yoga practice can prove to be an invaluable asset to facilitate self-correction and learning.
As B.K.S. Iyengar said:
“The body is the prop for the soul. So why not let the body be propped by a wall or a block?”
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