Legs Up the Wall pose is wonderful for so many reasons. I frequently recommend it to my clients who have low back pain, tight hamstrings, tight calves, leg cramps or foot pain. This pose is also great for calming your nervous system and pairs well with a short meditation. It is such a simple looking pose but offers the body and mind so many benefits.
Below are some additional benefits this position offers:
- Stretches the hamstrings (back of the thighs)
- Stretches the calves
- Stretches and retrains the low back curve
- It stretches all these areas (legs and back) in combination which is important in functional movements such as walking, bending and reaching.
- Facilitates blood circulation
- Facilitates lymphatic circulation
- Relaxes the pelvic floor
- Stretches the shoulders
But, what if I can’t get on the floor (and back up again)?
I encourage all my clients to practice getting up and down from the floor. Doing Legs Up the Wall Pose is a very purposeful reason to practice this skill. Getting up and down from the floor uses many muscles and joints in a way we generally don’t during the day (and night). It is a skill we all need, especially as we age.
If you can’t get up and down without assistance, place a chair beside you to help with getting up and down. Take your time and do it mindfully. But, work toward being able to do it without a chair. You never know when you might need this skill. If you drop something important and it ends up bouncing a few inches under the couch, you may need to get on the floor. If you have grandkids who are begging you to play picnic with them, you may need to get on the floor. Hopefully, you never need this skill because you fell, but if you do and there is no one around to help, you will be glad you have this skill. The process of getting down on the floor and up again is a good movement for your body.
Tools You’ll Need
Technically, you don’t need anything to do the pose, but there are a few items that can make your experience more comfortable and help you get the most from the pose.
- A yoga mat can soften the surface you are laying on and encourage you to stay longer. You must be patient when stretching the back of the legs.
- A towel can be folded or rolled up to support the low back curve. You should always maintain a healthy low back curve when doing the pose, so you are stretching with the back in a functional position. If you can’t tolerate the towel, even with just one fold, you are too close to the wall. Work towards a combination of adding folds in the towel to increase the curve and getting your tush closer to the wall. Be patient.
- A yoga strap can be placed around the thighs or the calves to keep your legs and feet in line. If you find your feet tend to roll out or in, the strap will keep them pointing in the right direction and allow you to soften into the pose fully.
- Therapy balls can be an excellent addition to the pose. You can place them under your back or shoulders for a little added release during the pose.
- Thick socks may be helpful if your heels are tender. The added cushioning may make it more comfortable.
- A book, music or a podcast can help you be more patient with your pose. Try just breathing for five to ten minutes, but if you’re not there yet and need some entertainment to get the physical benefit from the pose, that is absolutely fine.
You may want to visit my Self-care Products page to find the items you may need. You’ll find helpful links to the tools. Let’s get started.
Doing Legs Up the Wall Correctly
- Start with your hips 10-12 inches (or more as needed) from the wall, so you are not placing too much tension on the back of your legs. Wiggle yourself closer or further from the wall until you feel a mild to moderate tension in the back of your legs. You may feel the tension in your calves, your thighs, your hips, back or all. There is not a right or wrong. You will feel it where you are the tightest first. The sensation may shift around. You are stretching fascia as well as muscle.
- Keep your legs hip-distance apart and your toes pointing forward. If you have trouble keeping your legs and toes in this position, use a strap around your calves. This allows for even deeper relaxation.
- Place a rolled-up towel under your low back to keep your low back curve from flattening. Start with a small roll and increase it to stretch this area.
- Once you have the legs and low back in place, breathe deeply using your diaphragm. Be very patient. Continually scan your body from head to toe and soften any part of your body that has tensed up.
- If you noticed that you are no longer feeling mild tension in the back of your legs, hips or low back, you might be ready to move closer to the wall. Try gently pressing the bottom of your tailbone closer to the floor. If this creates a pulling sensation, you’re ready to move a little closer. If the feeling was intense, just move a little closer, maybe half an inch. If it wasn’t very intense, you could try moving an inch or more toward the wall. You can do this by placing your feet on the floor and walking your hips toward the wall.
Additional steps to add more benefit.
- With your arms on the floor and your palms up, begin to slide your arms up to 90 degrees or more. This adds a nice shoulder stretch to your pose.
- Use deep diaphragmatic breathing to calm your muscles and promote lymph circulation.
- Make the pose even more beneficial by adding a therapy ball under your upper back. Allowing the ball to sink into your fascia during the pose can relieve tension in this area as well.
Your long-term goal is to be able to easily get down on the floor and do the pose with your bottom against the wall. This may be in the near future for some of you but pretty far off for others. The short-term goal is to begin. The benefits are worth the effort.
Thank you to Gessica Stovall, OTS for posing for the photos.
By Amy Mayer OTD, OTR/L, RYT