When is the last time you dove into a really deep, juicy downward dog?
When you take a wall yoga class, you get to do just that—dive into downward dog—with the aid of a wall and straps securely fastened and hanging from said wall. If you don’t believe me, watch this expert (ha ha) demonstration of me diving into a downward dog from the great yoga wall that I happened upon at Blissful Yoga Studio on a recent trip to Scottsdale, Arizona.
On my quest to try all the different flavors of yoga, this recent vacation afforded me the opportunity to try out two newfangled types of yoga, FLYoga and wall yoga, and I don’t think I have to say this, but yes, they both fall into the category of awesomely cool yoga experiences. I’ll save the Circque du Soleil—I mean FLYYoga experience—for my next post and today will focus on hitting the yoga wall.
I arrived at Blissful Yoga early so I could meet my fellow Twitter yogini buddy Stephanie Spence, who introduced me to the owner of the studio, Rosa Rendon, and gave a little sneak preview of what was to come. Rosa gave me a quick demo of a hanging inversion pose and then helped me up into the strap for my first taste of wall yoga. I will admit it was a bit scary coming into my first pose, and mind you, there was a camera on me recording the whole experience, so I couldn’t help but think, “Holy crap, why did I agree to be videotaped doing this!” It wasn’t a bad scary; in fact, I was pretty confident I was going to love the way it would feel, but the first time you do something that involves hanging upside down, it’s pretty normal (I think) to have a bit of anxiety.
I tried to remember all the things I always tell my new students: let go of the fear, come to the practice with a beginner’s mind, breathe slow and steady. I realized I’d better practice what I preach as I let myself lean backwards, completely trusting the strap, brave smile on my face, ready to enjoy the ride.
From the moment I hung from the wall in reclined supta baddha konasana, it was an inverted love at first hang.
The beauty of doing yoga with the help of the wall is that you can come fully into an inversion to extend the spine and align every single vertebra. When I was hanging from the wall in supta baddha konasana, I felt like a rock-star yogini, because, in essence, I was doing a handstand, which is something I haven’t quite tackled off the wall in my yoga practice. A full handstand! And let me just tell you, I felt completely invigorated and exhilarated.
The other thing I felt while hanging from the wall was the gravity doing some amazing work on my neck and face. I couldn’t help but think that this kind of an inversion has to be good for reducing wrinkles, and it turns out that inversions have all along been labeled a fountain of youth. All those blood cells flowing down into the brain assist with energizing the mind, increasing memory retention, and uplifting the spirits. It’s kind of like a natural high for the brain, and who doesn’t like a good natural high!
If that is not incentive enough, wall yoga can be very therapeutic for people with scoliosis or disc disease. In fact, Rosa told me a success story of one of her students who, over a period of two years, had the angle of the curvature in his spine decrease due to weekly wall yoga sessions.
When you first walk into a wall studio, the first thing you notice are the straps hanging from the walls with metal devices. Although you see all the normal yoga studio accoutrements (blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets), you can’t quite take your eyes off the wall and wonder what the heck is going to happen.
Before my class began, I went up to introduce myself to the instructor, Rasoul Sobhani, and let him know I was new. He was a little nonchalant about this announcement and whisked me away back to my spot on the wall, assuring me that he would take good care of all the first-timers. And that he did. With a calm, soothing voice, Rasoul took his time to show us how to do the asanas with the aid of the wall and strap, always demonstrating proper alignment, and then he went around ensuring we were set up properly in the poses. I think we all rested more assured when he clued us in to the fact that the straps can hold a weight up to 1,500 pounds!
The class flowed similar to a yoga class, starting with some breathing to get us grounded (and also to calm the nerves) and warm-ups, and then we moved to downward dog done four different ways! Downward dog with a strap to support you is really cool. You can lean forward, almost as if you are diving forward into your dog, and then the strap allows you to extend your body deeper into the pose. In fact, each of the standing poses we did – extended side angle, triangle, warrior 2, forward fold – all felt amazing with the aid of the wall and the strap to keep the body in proper alignment as we moved deeper into the stretches. The poses just felt yummier, and although there was no flowing vinyasa movement, I worked up a sweat and felt all the same benefits I do after attending a vinyasa flow class.
Rosa demonstrating an inverted version of Tadasana
I looked around the room several times and noticed the smiles on students’ faces. We were all going places we had never been on our mats. I think that teaching yoga on the wall not only aids immensely in teaching proper alignment, but also helps to boost confidence. If you get the opportunity to attend a wall yoga class at Blissful Yoga Studio, I can highly recommend Rasoul. Any man who can gracefully get 19 women to hang from a wall with smiles on their faces is a rock star in my book.
I’m feeling a little musical inspiration coming on. To quote (well, I guess I should say song parody) Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall”…
Better do it now before you get too old
‘Cause we’re the yoga people, night and day
Livin’ crazy, that’s the only way
Gotta leave those blocks and bolsters on the shelf
And just enjoy yourself
C’mon and hang
Let the madness in the wall straps get to you
Yoga ain’t so bad at all
If you do it on the wall!
And, if you live it off the wall!!
I’m back in Ohio now, desperately searching for a studio with wall yoga so I can keep working on that awesome anti-gravity, wrinkle reducing, yoga high!
Check out my fifteen minutes of fame in this video demonstration of wall yoga at Blissful Yoga, and leave a comment below if you’ve tried wall yoga and want to share your experience.
Thanks Stephanie for helping me navigate the yoga studios of Scottsdale! Please take a trip over to Stephanie’s One With Life website to be inspired and there’s also a bunch of cool videos of her demonstrating yoga poses. Big shout outs and thanks to Rasoul and Rosa as well for an awesome virgin wall yoga experience. I hope to make it back to Blissful Yoga someday soon (maybe for some wall yoga teacher training) and I would love to take another class with Rasoul.
P.S. If you like my rock star yoga capris and tank top, I picked them up from the awesome folks at MPG – Mondetta Performance Gear.