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Wall Inversions

Since running primarily engages the lower body, tightness and stiffness in the hips & glutes is often experienced. These are some the largest, most powerful areas of the body; and it is key to keep these muscles supple and balanced in order to avoid strain on any of the weaker surrounding areas, such as the lower back. In the physical practice of Yoga, we are looking to create strength where the body is weak, as well as space & length where the body is tight and closed off.

As a runner, you may have experienced difficulty in sitting cross legged when your hips are tight. This resistance causes the low back to collapse, making it difficult to practice proper form or bring any relief to tight hips while stretching upright.

You can avoid this by simply using a wall and the floor for support. Most of us spend the majority of each day upright, with gravity constantly drawing energy (blood, water, nutrients) downwards in the body. Elevating the legs does just the opposite. By inverting the body, you can use gravity to flood the upper body and all of the major organs with the energy that pools in the lower body. Bringing your legs up a wall not only provides the benefits of draining the legs, but also relaxing and elongating the entire back side of the body. In essence, it is a light form of traction (creating space) for the body.

Inversions (bringing the legs over the heart) have been shown to:

  • Prevent varicose veins
  • Regulate the endocrine & hormonal systems
  • Bring blood to the brain, triggering the production of neurotransmitters, which can help reduce symptoms of depression as well as improve brain function & your ability to focus
  • and in practical terms, it just feels good to drain the legs, especially on those “heavy legs” days.

Start your Yoga practice today by forming a 90 degree angle with the sit bones flat against the wall, the legs extended straight upwards and the back of the torso flat against the floor. Make sure the buttocks are wedged into the corner where the floor meets the wall.

We are looking to keep the whole body relaxed. For some, the sensation here may be light, if at all. For others, a bend in the knees may be needed if strain or pain is experienced. It is more important to have the low back flat against the floor rather than to lift the hips or bring the sit bones away from the wall.


POSTURE #1: OPENING MEDIAL & OUTER HAMSTRINGS

yoga stretch at wall for runners

Loop a strap (a belt or small towel can be used as well) around the widest part of your foot. Choke up enough on the strap so the arms are fully extended but the shoulders do not lift off the floor. Begin by pulling straight down on the strap, grounding the back of the hip/lower back. From there, press up through the heal and gradually continue to straighten the leg. Taking deep breaths, allow upper body to relax, breathing into the back of the leg.

Moving from the medial hamstring into the outer hamstring: With the strap on your right foot, take both strap ends into the left hand, and relax the right arm to the side for balance. Take the right leg, in front of the left, 4-5 inches left-of-center. Bend the knee if needed. Pressing out through the heel, work the leg straighter by pressing into the sit bone and out through the heel. Breathe deeply, 8-10 full breaths for each side. Glance at the formation of your foot, and gently pull down more with the strap on the side of the foot that tends to curl inwards, flattening the sole of the foot. Notice the difference in sensation this movement brings to your posture.
Repeat with the strap on your left foot. Take notice of any differences between the left & right sides, returning to either side that is tighter for an additional 8-10 breaths.


POSTURE # 2: OPENING GROIN, INNER HIPS & HAMSTRINGS

Making sure the sit bones have not moved away from the wall, let the knees open outwards, bringing the soles of your feet together. You may be familiar with this posture practiced on the floor as bound angle, cobbler’s pose, or a butterfly stretch. Here you can use the support to the lower back to isolate the movement to the inner hamstrings, hips & groin. Keeping your upper body relaxed, bring hands to the inner thighs. Lightly, without straining the shoulders, begin to gently apply pressure, pulling the knees away from the hips & the thighs towards the wall. If this puts pressure on the ankle bones, a towel can be placed between the feet & wall.


POSTURE #3: OPENING THE GLUTES & OUTER HIPS.

If you suffer from sciatica (compression of the lower back with tingling in legs, shooting pains down leg, shin splints, drop foot, and general low back pain), or any pain in the lower back, this is your posture!

Bringing legs up the wall once more, make sure sit bones are wedged between where the wall and floor meet. This is another posture you may be familiar with practicing on the floor, but here we can use support from the wall and floor to avoid any collapsing or strain on the back.

Crossing the left ankle over the right thigh, begin to bend through the right knee until a stretch is felt in the left glute. For some bodies, simply taking the ankle over the thigh will be enough to create a movement in the back of left glute. Hips may lift off the floor, but do not actively lift hips. The only thing active is the right foot pressing into the wall. Relax arms out wide to your sides. Do this for a good 12-16 deep breaths for each leg. Revisit the tighter side for an additional 6-10 breaths, depending on the intensity of the movement.


Listen to and trust your body’s signals. Spend more time where you notice your body experiences the most resistance. Likewise, rest when needed between postures, bringing knees to chest, rocking side to side on your back. If cramping or tingling occur, bring legs down from wall and rest in fetal position on one side.

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One Response to "Wall Inversions"

  1. Evan says:

    Nice article.

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