Yoga blocks and straps can benefit any stretching practice, but what if I told you that you already have another amazing prop at your disposal? I’m talking about a good, old-fashioned wall. A firm horizontal surface gives you the support you need to balance, which allows you the freedom to go deeper into your stretches.
You can find a wall nearly anywhere—most of you have access to at least four as you read this—making stretching easy and convenient. Here are seven of the best stretches you can do anywhere there’s a flat, upright surface.
1. Modified Child’s Pose
Do you sit most of your workday? If so, this easy-to-get-into pose will help stretch out your shoulders, neck, hips, and shins.
Begin by sitting on top of your heels with your toes untucked. Splay your knees apart slightly wider than hip distance. Stretch arms out so there is no bend in your elbows and place hands on the wall for support. You can either drop your head between your arms, allowing the weight of gravity to aid in stretching out the neck muscles, or you can rest your head on the wall for support. Hold the pose for approximately 30 seconds.
2. Spinal Twist
This relaxing pose will really open you up, so give yourself plenty of room to spread your wings. It stretches your neck, shoulders, arms, chest, spinal column, lower back, and hips. Start by scooting close enough to the wall so that your bottom is flush with it. Pull your knees into your chest and drop them to the right. Your feet and bottom should be both touching the wall; this will ensure that your knees are higher than your hips, which is great for your lower back. Spread your arms out, palms faced upwards and look over the shoulder that is furthest away from your knees.
This pose is incredibly comfortable so sit in it as long as you like—just try not to fall asleep. Make sure you hold it for the same length of time on the other side.
3. Inverted Staff Pose
This comfy pose is sure to make your feet, legs, hips, pelvic cavity, and lower back feel refreshed and restored. Your poor feet spend so much time holding up the weight of your entire body it’s a good idea to give them a break from time to time. (And by that, I don’t mean sitting on the couch all weekend.) Scoot up close to a wall so that your bottom and legs rest flush with wall, allowing the blood that normally circulates down to your feet to more easily flow up the legs, to the lower back and pelvic cavity. Improved blood flow to these areas helps them relax and heal.
After a few minutes in the straight leg position, slowly separate the legs away from each other. Let them float open until you feel a comfortable stretch. Notice the longer you maintain the pose, the more your legs are willing to open, as if they are rewarding you for turning your world upside down for a while.
4. Calf Stretch
If you just got back from your 10-mile run and your legs are killing you, head to the wall for relief! Place your hands on the wall and set your feet hip-width apart. Step one foot forward so that your toes and the ball of your foot are on the wall.
This calf stretch can range from gentle to intense depending on how high you place your toes and how far forward you press your hips. Hold this pose on each side until you feel the soreness subside.
5. Shoulder Stretch
Shoulders and biceps sore? Do these arm and shoulder stretches afterwards to promote recovery. They will increase blood flow and your range and fluidity of movement—and they feel really, really great. Place your hand on the wall at shoulder height. Slowly work the side of your body toward the wall until you feel a deep stretch in the chest, bicep, and anterior shoulder muscles. Take several deep breaths until you feel like you have gotten a good stretch, then switch sides.
Now that you’ve made friends with the wall, it’s time to get a little up close and personal. In order to stretch the posterior part of your shoulder, move your arm across your chest. Place the outside of your arm flush with the wall at shoulder height, palm faced out. Stand with feet hip-width apart and walk your body toward the extended arm on the wall. The closer the opposite shoulder is to the wall, the deeper the stretch. Breathe deeply and hold the pose as long as it feels comfortable.
6. Hamstring Stretch
Hands on the wall! You’re under arrest for tight hamstrings! Sometimes it feels like tight legs and a painful lower back cage you in. It’s all about stretching when it comes to relieving that kind of pain. Place both hands on the wall at shoulder height. Walk your feet out until your ankles line up perfectly with your hips. Soften your knees and then try to create a straight horizontal line from your hands to hips by lowering your shoulders. You can also do this pose as a variation of downward facing dog, putting your hands on the floor and heels against the wall.
7. Extended Side Angle
This pose is chock-full o’ simultaneous stretching and strengthening. Place your right heel against the wall, toes pointing away from the wall, keeping the outside edge of the foot straight. Step your left foot out into a lunge, outside edge of the foot flush with the wall, and your knee lined up with your ankle. Place the left hand on a block or on the floor and keep your arm straight. Reach your right arm into the air, as far away from your right foot as possible so that your body forms a straight line from your foot to your hand. Drop the right hip down to help create this line. Lean your shoulder, hips, and bottom against the wall, engaging your core muscles. This will accentuate the stretch, while strengthening your core, legs, knees, and ankles. Hold it for several breaths.
All photos by Lulu Lam.