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When you think of using the wall in your asana practice, it’s probably to help with inversions by kicking or crawling up the wall or to rest your legs in the supremely relaxing Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani).
Yet a wall can do so much more, helping to deepen many postures and providing feedback on muscle activation that can eventually help you practice those same postures without the support of a wall.
Case in point: These 10 twisting yoga poses, which you can do using a wall for support.
Walk your nose and toes to the wall. Take your left hand underneath your shoulder, with elbow bent back (like in Chaturanga). Extend your right arm out to the side at shoulder height. Looking over at your left hand, press the left palm firmly into the wall as you begin to rotate your chest towards the left hand. Begin to pivot your toes toward the left so that the pinky side edge of your feet is parallel to the wall. If you can, continue to rotate your chest and feet towards the center of the room, keeping your right shoulder and arm firmly pressed into the wall. Once you reach your maximal twist, pause for 10 breaths. Slowly unwind, returning to your starting position of noes and toes to the wall. Repeat on the other side.
Seated Spinal Twist
Sit with your left hip three to six inches from the wall. Cross your left ankle to the outside of your right thigh, placing your foot firmly on the ground. On an inhalation, reach your arms overhead. On an exhalation, twist and take your right hand or elbow to the outside of your left thigh and your left hand to the wall behind you. On your next inhalation, sit up tall and find length in your spine; on your next exhalation, deepen the twist by energetically pulling your left hand towards you as you bend your left elbow. Continue for 7 breath cycles, then return to center and take a counter twist on the exhalation. Repeat on the other side.
Shin-Up-The Wall Twist
Practicing any form of shin-up-the-wall is incredibly beneficial to your quadriceps and hip flexors. In this variation, you’ll get the added benefits of a twist and inner thigh stretch. Facing the center of the room, place you left knee at the base of the wall with your shin against the wall. Point your toes up toward the ceiling.. With both hands on the ground, adjust your right foot so that your right knee is stacked over your ankle. Then, wiggle your right foot to the outside edge of your mat. With care, peel the big toe mound and ball of your right foot off of the mat, encouraging external rotation of your right thigh. You should be rotating on to the pinky side edge of your right foot. Take your right hand to the inner part of your right thigh and press the leg away from you. Pause here for 3 breaths. You can stay on your left hand or lower down onto your left forearm, depending on the openness of your hips. Reach your right hand back toward your left toes and press your right fingertips into the wall, allowing your chest to spiral up toward the sky. Pause for 5 breaths, then carefully unwind and switch sides.
Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana)
Stand with your right hip against the wall. Take a big step forward with your left foot so that your feet are the approximate distance of your lunge. Keeping your right foot as flat as possible, extend both legs straight. Hinging at your hips, begin to forward fold with a flat back. Once your chest is parallel to the ground, place your right hand on the ground, block, or on the top of your left foot and extend your left arm up to the sky. Roll your right shoulder back into the support of the wall to deepen the twist. Here, the wall will act like an assist to keep your hips square (instead of displaced to the right). Stay here for 5 breaths, then gently bring both hands to the ground and step forward to fold forward. Repeat on the other side.
Revolved Half Moon Pose (Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana)
Standing in the middle of your mat facing away from the wall, come into a Forward Fold (Uttanasana). On an inhalation, come to Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana). Extend your left leg back, pressing your left foot flat against the wall behind you. Keeping your hips square, extend your right arm up to the sky, finding Revolved Half Moon Pose. Use the wall to negotiate the strength of your back left leg. Press actively into the wall with your left foot, engaging the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. Once you are firmly rooted in your legs, use your exhalation to rotate your torso even more toward the sky. Stay here for 5 breath cycles. On an exhalation, return to Supported Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III), then gently step your left foot to the right, arriving in a forward fold. Repeat on the other side.
See also Build Balance in Revolved Half Moon
Revolved Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Pavrivrtta Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana)
Stand about 4 feet away from the wall, facing it. Root your right foot into the floor and draw your left knee up to your chest. Keeping your abdominals engaged, extend your left leg, placing your left foot firmly against the wall at hip height. Take a big breath in and grow tall to lengthen your spine. On an exhalation, twist to the left, bringing your right hand to the outer edge of your left quadricep while extending your left arm towards the center of the room. Work on actively pressing your left foot forward into the wall. Simultaneously root your right foot solidly into the earth. To deep the posture, place your right hand on the outside on your left foot, flattening your palm against the wall. Stay here for 5 breaths. On an inhalation, slowly unwind, returning to Tadasana. Repeat on the other side.
Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana), Variation
If you’re working on extending your legs in Side Crow but can’t seem to find the lift of the back leg, use the wall to help identify the strength needed in the back glute and hamstring.
Find Downward-Facing Dog with your heels touching the wall. Lift your right leg up to Down Dog Split on an inhalation. On an exhalation, twist your right knee to your left tricep. Bend your elbows like you would in Chaturanga and crawl your back left toes up the wall behind you. Work on engaging the glutes while kicking back through the ball of your left foot. Hold here for 5 breaths, then return to Down Dog and repeat on the other side.
Supine Twist (Variation 1)
Lie on your back in Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani). Take your arms out to a T-shape. Keeping your hips as close to the wall as possible, slowly lower both legs over to the left. Hold for 10 breaths before returning to Viprarita Karani, then repeat on the other side.
Supine Twist (Variation 2)
Lie on your back in Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani). Take your arms out to a T-shape. Keeping your hips as close to the wall as possible, slowly lower both legs over to the left. Bend both knees, press both feet against the bottom of the wall, and use your left hand to gently guide both knees closer to the ground. Hold for 10 breaths before returning to Viprarita Karani, then repeat on the other side.
See also Master Revolved Abdomen Pose
Supine Twist (Variation 3)
Lie on your back in Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani). Take your arms out to a T-shape. Keeping your hips as close to the wall as possible, slowly lower both legs over to the left. Place your (top) right foot flat on the ground in front of your left thigh, and press your right ankle into your left thigh to encourage your right knee skyward. This is a very intense IT band stretch, so ease into it. Hold for 10 breaths before returning to Viprarita Karani, then repeat on the other side.
About the Author
Kristin Calabria is a Los Angeles–based yoga and fitness instructor currently pursuing her master’s in social work. Learn more at kristincalabria.com.