The legs-up-a-wall pose is a worthwhile addition to your training sessions and recovery practices. For being so simple its benefits are superabundant. The pose helps to reverse the actions that happen in our bodies as we sit and stand all day. The inverted pose aids overall recovery by allowing fluids and metabolites in the lower body to drain, reversing the effects of gravity, while also stretching the hamstrings and lower back. Let’s walk through some of the additional benefits of the pose and how to progress and regress the pose based on your current ability levels.
The low back and sacroiliac (SI) joint relief are key benefits of this pose. The legs-up-the-wall pose allows the musculature running along the low back and hips to stretch. Muscles such as the iliopsoas are able to fully relax after holding one’s weight for the entire day. Postural improvements can also be gained from working through this pose consistently. Legs up the wall can open up your upper body and counteract the forward slouching position from sitting all day at work, school, or in the car.
Draining fluid build-up and recirculating blood in the lower body are both things that happen when you kick your feet up. This brings blood back to your heart and aids in lymphatic drainage. An unintended befit of this pose is the time it allows you to focus on yourself. Having 5 to 20 minutes of time to focus can be the mental recharge many of us need after a tough workout or competition. For some, this is time to reflect on the training session and what may have gone well or could be improved upon next time. Others may find this time better suited to read a book or take a cat nap to supplement their sleep quantity. However you decide to tune out, the uninterrupted “me time” will surely be valuable.
Here’s how to do the move: Lie down on your back and try to get your butt as close to the wall as possible, extending your legs up and perpendicular to the floor. Open your arms out to the side, and relax. No lavish tools or equipment are needed for this one. If having your butt against the wall is too uncomfortable, slide away from the wall to take some tension off the hamstrings at a softer angle. Another option to take pressure off the hamstrings would be to add a towel or pillow under the hips to also adjust the angle.
An additional regression to the position for those who are uncomfortable would be to set up with the hips further away from the wall, allowing the knee joint to fall to a 90-degree angle. To take additional pressure off an athlete could rest their legs on a sofa or chair and still reap the benefits. One thing to avoid while working through this pose is putting a towel or pillow behind your head. This should be avoided as we want the entire spine and neck to remain in a neutral position keeping the ears in line with the shoulders.
Taking the legs out wide into a V shape can add a significant stretch to the groin group. Drawing the bottom of the feet together into a butterfly position with the knees painting out allows this position to pull double duty as a hip opener. As the feet inch closer to the groin you can use your hands or elbows to gently push the thighs down to get a deeper stretch. If your shoulders feel tight or stiff placing your hands behind your head helps further open the shoulders.
You’ll reap the benefits by holding this position anywhere from five to 20 minutes. Focus on breathing and allowing the mind to settle into a calm place. Give this movement a try 4 times a week over the next 4 weeks and see how you feel following training.