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Your Guide to Using the

Wall as A Prop In
An Anatomically Based Therapeutic

Yoga Practice
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Focused movement• Posture awareness
Self-regulation Self-awareness

Balance Breathwork

Laura Goellner OTR/L, E-RYT, C-IAYT

Yoga Therapy At The Wall

In this manual we will look at the therapeutic value

of using an ordinary flat wall as a prop in yoga.

This extremely versatile and readily available tool will quickly

become your favorite prop for practicing asana and beyond!

The Wall Brings A New Dimension To Yoga Practice:

Increasing & Decreasing Challenge in Postures
Bringing Awareness to the Bac k Body
Creating a Settling Effect to Regulate Vata Dosha
Providing a Surface for Body Rolling
Inc reasing Awareness of Alignment & Posture
Adding New Variety to Traditional Movement Patterns
Balanc ing Effort and Ease

Anatomical & Physiologic al Principles:

The 3 Planes of Movement
Ac tive, Passive and Resisted Movement
The 4 Types of Stretching
Isolation Vs. Integration of Movements
Facilitation Vs. Inhibition of Muscles
Integrating Stabilization, Strength, Flexibility & Mobility

Beyond Asana Practice:

Understanding the Layers of Our Being Through The Kosha System Looking
at the Causes of Suffering through the Kleshas
Improving the Skills of Self-Awareness & Self-Regulation
Active Vs. Passive Relaxation Techniques
The Breath's Relationship to Gravity & Body Position
Balancing the Y in & Yang Elements of Yoga
Up-Regulation & Down-Regulation of the Nervous System
Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Acknowledgements

Yoga Therapy At The Wall


Using your wall as a space to explore, learn and restore


Laura Goellner OTR/L, E-RYT, LMT, CLT, C-IAYT

Yoga was first brought into my life in the form of a Denise
Austin VHS tape the summer before I left for college. Over the next
15 years the practice became a constant support and guiding force
in my life. I have watched both my teaching and my personal
practice evolve in response to the experiences that crossed my path.
The information in this manual codifies what I have learned as a
Yoga Teacher, an Occupational Therapist and a Yoga Therapist
working in the field of wellness since 2003. It is my purpose to share
knowledge and tools that can help each of us live our life with a
greater sense of peace and ease.

To My Teachers:
It has been one of the greatest joys of my life to be a part of the golden chain of
information being passed from teacher to student. I am deeply grateful to those that shared
their knowledge with me and helped to shape my understanding of yoga .
To My Students:
Thank You for showing up on your mat to explore, learn and try new things. Your
eagerness to learn continues to fuel my passion for teaching.
To Everyone That Contributed:
Thank You to Patrick for your constant support throughout the process of creating this
manual. From doing the dishes so that I had more time to write, to being my photographer, set
manager and design consultant. I appreciate all of the time and effort that you donated.
A big THANK YOU to my parents, Gregory & Diane Goellner for painstakingly editing
this manual before publication.
Thank you Mark Freeman for using your artistic skill to create the beautiful cover
design @foundation.a.d
Hummingbird Yoga Studio
Thank You to Heidi Farber & Hummingbird Yoga for providing
the location for the photography sessions and for creating the
environment where “Yoga Therapy At The Wall” was first developed.
The warm, accepting atmosphere of Hummingbird Yoga has been
central to my development as a yoga teacher.

L. Goellner YT@TW 1
Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Table of Contents

Anatomy Reference:
Chapter 7:


Chapter 1: Chapter 8:

Chapter 2: Chapter 9:

Chapter 3: Chapter 10:

Chapter 4: Chapter 11:

Chapter 5: Chapter 12:

Chapter 6: Conclusion:

From the Author:

L. Goellner YT@TW 2
Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Anatomy Reference

Anatomical Position: The neutral position from which position and movement is described

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Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Anatomy Reference

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Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Anatomy Reference

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Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Anatomy Reference

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Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Anatomy Reference

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Anatomy Reference
Yoga Therapy @ The Wall

L. Goellner YT@TW 8
Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Introduction

How to Use This Book
There are so many ways to practice yoga, but this manual will focus solely on the benefits of
using the wall as a prop in therapeutically based yoga practice. As you go through the chapters I
encourage you to stop frequently and explore what is being presented so that you can experience it in
your own body. This manual will also serve as the foundation text for workshops and teacher trainings
that incorporate wall yoga techniques. For more information on classes, workshops and trainings
please see the author’s website: or contact Laura directly at or through Instagram @LauraGyoga and @Yoga_At_The_Wall

Safety & Precautions

The saying in yoga is that “you are your own best teacher”. This is true in a group class setting
as well as in your home practice. A yoga teacher is able to offer guidance, but you ultimately decide
what to incorporate into your practice. You know your body best and only you know what you are
experiencing at any given moment. Be mindful of your physical and mental health as well as your
experience level. Know the difference between challenge and strain. Working from a space of challenge
will create change. Appropriate amounts of challenge can increase both our physical and emotional
strength, however it can be easy to cross the threshold into strain. Working in a place of strain can be
counter productive and possibly lead to injury. If you are an individual that has a tendency to “over do”
be vigilant of this pitfall. On the other hand, if you tend to avoid challenge it may be beneficial for you to
gradually increase the time spent in challenging poses. With any movement program there is a risk of
injury. Cultivating strong self-awareness can minimize this risk as it is the foundation of safe practice.

If you are pregnant or have a specific injury or chronic condition you will need to seek the input
of a qualified healthcare professional before starting this, or any other movement program. Keep in
mind that yoga is a customizable practice that can be tailored to all levels of physical ability. It is
recommended that you consult with an experienced Yoga Teacher or Yoga Therapist regarding
modifications to make the practice safe for you. Taking a series of private sessions before joining a
group class is highly recommended when practicing any form of yoga so that you have a solid
foundation to build on. This will make both home practice and group practice more beneficial for your
unique body. Yoga poses are generally safe when performed properly, however not every pose is
suitable for everyone. Certain movements or positions may be contraindicated based on your current
health status, therefore it is essential to seek a personalized assessment from a Yoga Therapist. Yoga
should not be used instead of traditional medical treatment. It is an excellent complimentary health
practice in addition to seeing your doctor, physical therapist and mental health professional as needed.
What is Yoga?
For most people in the western world the word "yoga" brings
Yoga is not for the
up images of very fit, flexible people twisting into unusual positions.
This portrayal of yoga is so common that most people have come to
the conclusion that yoga is a type of intense stretching. This
It is for the willing.
misconception has caused countless individuals to avoid yoga, - Unknown
believing that they are not suited to participate.
Most students that start a physical yoga practice are either looking for a good workout or a way
to relax. While yoga can check both of those boxes, with continued practice students come to
understand that yoga has so much more to offer. The physical practice of Hatha yoga is a movement
system that incorporates strength, balance, flexibility, coordination, body awareness, and nervous
system regulation. Hatha yoga practice is so diverse that it can be challenging enough for an olympic
athlete or gentle enough for the terminally ill. But hatha practice is just the tip of the iceberg...
L. Goellner YT@TW 9
Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Introduction
In the bigger picture yoga postures (asana) are only one of the eight branches that make up the
practice of yoga. The combination of all 8 "limbs" of yoga creates a complete system to foster balance
and awareness on every level of our being. The 8 limbed path of yoga is the most comprehensive
system that exists for personal development on a physical, emotional, intellectual, mental, spiritual and
energetic level.

So What is Yoga Really? Yoga Sutra 1.1: The Practice of Yoga is Now
To put it simply, yoga is complete connection to the experience of the “now”. This is opposed to
being in a state of thinking about the past or the future. Yoga is the pure, all encompassing experience
of what is right now, but it goes beyond just awareness. In its highest form the practice of yoga leads to
a state of enlightenment. Your sense of separateness dissolves and you exist in deep connection with
all that is. This includes a deep connection to the Self, to all living beings, to the environment you are in
and to a higher power.
The path to enlightenment begins by stilling the fluctuations of the mind that bring up thoughts
of the past and the future. If you have ever tried to meditate by “clearing the mind” you know how
difficult this process is. Our minds constantly bounce from thought
to thought with little restraint. For most of us the mind can only
go a few seconds at a time without generating past or future
“Yoga takes you into the
thoughts. This constant preoccupation with the past and the present moment.
future creates a sense of detachment from our life. We are living The only place where life
in a state of thinking about what has already happened or what is exists”
going to happen, while missing the experience that is unfolding - Unknown
right in front of us. As this habit becomes stronger life seems to
pick up speed, becoming a blur as it passes us by. This is where
the system of yoga comes in. The ancient yogis designed the 8 Limbed Path of yoga as a training
system to bring your experience to rest in the present moment. With consistent practice our mind
becomes still and clear. We are able to soak in every moment of our life without distraction or
disconnection. This is the gift of truly living the yogic way of life.

A Very Brief History of Yoga

Yoga is an ancient system that has its roots in northern India around 5,000 years ago. In this
early pre-classical stage yoga covered a vast array of techniques, philosophies and practices that are
quite different from modern yoga. The Classical age of yoga emerged when the sage Patanjali wrote
the “Yoga Sutras”, a text organizing the information on how to use the tools of yoga to create spiritual
enlightenment. During this period yoga was still strongly based in the spiritual realm with just a few
seated postures for meditation. It was not until several centuries later that the gurus began to focus on
practices of the physical body. This was a time of exploration into the connection of the spirit to the
physical body that resulted in what we now practice as hatha yoga.
The practice of yoga was mainly isolated in the eastern world until the late 1800’s and early
1900’s when immigration enabled several swamis to travel to the Americas. It was not until the hippie
era of the 1960’s that yoga really began to take root in the United States and gained mainstream
attention. Since then yoga has continued to gain devoted students. A 2016 survey showed that the
number of Americans practicing yoga had jumped from 20.4 million in 2012 up to 36.7 million. That
accounts for 15% of American adults. The
survey also found that 28% of Americans
had practiced yoga at some time in their life, “Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in.
with that number expected to increase to And this is the point of spiritual
nearly 35% in 2017.(ref. 5) One of the practice; to make us teachable; to open
drawbacks to this explosion in popularity is up our hearts and focus our awareness
that some of the teachings have been so that we can know what we already
watered down. In order to appeal to the know and be who we already are.”
masses yoga has been marketed as a - Rolf Gates

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Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Introduction
fitness system that will create a toned, flexible body without any mention of the other components.
Despite this current trend I believe that the staying power of yoga will come from the depth of the
system when all 8 limbs are practiced together. This comprehensive system for health, vitality and
enlightenment is exactly what is needed in the modern world; not another fitness craze. (ref. 6, 7,8)

The 8 Limbed Path

The complete practice of yoga consists of 8 components that are described as the limbs of a
tree. The incredible transformation that comes from yoga is attributed to the fact that it addresses the
needs of the physical body, the mind, the emotions, our energy and our moral/ethical ground. It is a
complete system for all the complex layers of our being.

The 8
1 The Yamas ethical guidelines to create peace with the external world
The The 5 universal foundations of all behaviors and decisions in a yogis life
2 The guidelines of personal conduct for peace in the internal world
Niyamas The 5 guidelines that the yogi uses to guide their daily structure and habits
3 Asana physical postures, resting in a “steady, comfortable seat”
4 Pranayama breath work to control energy, cultivating the essential life force: Prana

5 Pratyahara withdrawing energy from the senses and the external environment, cultivating
internal awareness, preparation for concentration
6 Dharana concentration, training the mind to maintain a single point of focus, preparation
for meditation
7 Dhyana meditation, stilling the fluctuations of the mind to settle in present moment
awareness, preparation for the transition to samadhi
8 Samadhi enlightenment, a higher state of consciousness with perfect union with all that
exists and all consuming peace and joy

The 5 The 5 Personal Ethical The 5 The 5 Spiritual

Yamas Create external peace Niyamas Observances Create
internal peace
1 Ahimsa Non-violence, not causing
harm to the self or other 1 Saucha cleanliness of physical
living things body, mind, spirit
2 Satya Non-lying, truthfulness to the
self and others
2 Santosha Contentment with what is
3 Asteya non-stealing, accepting what
comes to you naturally 3 Tapas Transformation through
without taking what is not for challenge
4 Brahmachar continence of energy, 4 Svadhyaya Self study for growth
ya celibacy, preservation of
inner energy
5 Isvara Surrender to a higher
5 Aparigraha Non-greed, not hoarding Pranidhana power, spiritual connection
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Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Introduction
Yoga is an ancient spiritually based system that is practiced to create union, instead of
separation. Yoga first creates union within the individual: the physical body, the mind and emotions, the
Soul. As the individual moves deeper into the practice union is achieved between their own being and
all that exists in the universe. It is a process of seeing, feeling and experiencing connection in every way
possible. On this path the yogi learns about the obstacles that a human faces, creating the illusion of
separateness and suffering (The 5 Kleshas). The 8 limbed path provides the yogi with tools to face
these human challenges and regain a sense of connection.

In the depiction of the 8 Limbs of Yoga the roots and trunk of the tree are formed by the Yamas
and the Niyamas. These 10 moral and ethical guidelines are designed to lay the ground work for
cultivating peace within the individual as well as peace outside the individual. Living according to these
10 principles will create an experience of life that fosters connection to everything around them. This
basic sense of connection enhances the effectiveness of the following limbs: Asana, Pranayama,
Pratyahara, Dharana and Dyana.

As discussed above the 8-Limbs of yoga work together to create connection and peace, but we
all know that the feeling of disconnection and dis-ease can be a central part of our human experience.
The root of these feelings of isolation and preoccupation with past and future problems have been
boiled down to 5 causes called the Kleshas. The Kleshas cause the “fluctuations” in the mind that result
in suffering. These are the internal processes that we are trying to work through using the tools of the 8-
Limbed path in order to achieve enlightenment. The Kleshas are covered in more detail in chapter 12 as
well as in the Practice Manual.

The 5 Kleshas: Obstacles to Enlightenment Tools of Yoga Therapy

Causes of Suffering

Ignorance of the True Self, forgetting Meditation, working through the
The Mother of all the eternal quality of the soul Koshas

Asmita Identification with the Ego, judgement, Becoming the witness consciousness,
self doubt, seeking external sources of watching the mind, Svadhyaya,
self worth pratyahara

Raga Attachment, Seeking Pleasure, want, Letting go, surrender in yin and
desire, accumulation restorative practice, aparigraha

Dvesha Aversion, Avoiding Pain, denial of what Facing challenge on the mat, power
is, avoidance of the truth yoga or vinyasa flow, practicing poses
you tend to avoid, Tapas

Abhinivesha Fear of Death, Resisting Change or the Savasana (corpse pose), Ishvara
natural flow of life Pranidhana

The Spiritual Side of Yoga
The way that we create and maintain relationships (connection) is a central part of yoga. This
includes our relationship to other humans, to other living beings, to our environment, to our higher
power and to our True Self (soul). I can readily admit that If 18 year old Laura knew yoga was a spiritual
practice incorporating connection to the Devine I would have run the other way. Fortunately, the yogic
system was revealed to me slowly over a period of years. This gradual deepening of my study allowed
me time to warm up to the idea of layering in spiritual components with the physical postures. Now more
than 15 years into my study of yoga I have found that the spiritual components have had the most
profound impact on my life.

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Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Introduction
I frequently explain to my students that the
spiritual aspect of yoga is very flexible. Your
relationship to …(insert what you know to be your Spirituality:
higher power)… is entirely personal. The teacher will “Relating to or affecting the
not dictate what that relationship should be and the human spirit or soul as opposed
yogic system will not dictate what that relationship to material or physical things.
should be. If you do follow a particular religion you can -google
layer those beliefs seamlessly into the practice. If you
are atheist or agnostic you can layer your own
understanding of spirituality onto the practice. If you find any particular details within yoga to be
contrary to your belief system feel free to omit them. If the spiritual component of the practice does not
sit well with you then you are free to omit that as well. Remember, you are your own best teacher. You
decide what is pulled into the practice and what is left out. Just be sure to leave enough wiggle room for
the practice to evolve over time. Don’t get bogged down in dogmatic thinking and encourage yourself to
face the aspects of the practice that challenge you rather than avoiding them. Growth happens when we
face the things that bring up discomfort.
Modern yoga does not dictate how you define
your spirituality, it just encourages you to embrace the fact
that you are a spiritual being. Allowing this to happen on “Yoga is always an invitation
your timeline and on your terms illustrates the beauty of and never an obligation”
yoga. In my experience, allowing my comfort with - Diane Bondy
spirituality to form gradually over time has created a
stronger connection then I ever felt through the guidelines
Seven Areas of Health The Tools of Yoga & Yoga Therapy
1 Relationship to Self Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Self- Inquiry
Fostering self steem & Positive Body Image
Awareness of the soul & the unchanging Self
2 Relationship to Others Guiding our relationships and interactions through the
Yamas & Niyamas, recognizing others to be the same as
the self
3 Relationship to Community Formation of Sangha: a group of those with similar
4 Relationship to the Devine Spiritual Awareness, connection to all that exists
5 Care of the Body: Physical Health Asana, Pranayama, self massage, body awareness

6 Care of the Mind: Mental Health Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Mantra, Journaling

7 Relationship to the Natural World Time spent in nature, exposure to natural light & dark cycles

of organized religion. Where I had actively pulled away from spirituality and rejected the concept of
God, I was finally able to cultivate a relationship to my own personal concept of a higher power.
Dr. Michael Finkelstein, a pioneer in the field of “slow medicine,” describes seven areas of
health that integrate to impact a person’s overall wellness. Dr. Finkelstein’s categories include the
relationship to the self, to others, to the community and to a higher power. Alongside each of those
seven components below you will see the tools of yoga that are employed to address each specific area
of health. (ref. 4)

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Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Introduction
The combination of yoga and religion can enhance, rather than detract from each other. Swami
Satchitananda’s life work was to unite the world religions under the umbrella of peace. His famous
saying was “Truth is One, Paths are Many”. We are all moving toward the same end, but we are using
different roads to make our way there. This information should serve to unite us, rather than causing

The 5 Points of Yoga:

Yoga is not just something that we practice when
on our mat. The eight limbs, especially the Yamas and
Niyamas, are meant to become guiding forces in every
aspect of the yogi’s life. Swami Vishnudevananda “For yoga practitioners,
outlined “The Five Points of Yoga” as a guide for awareness of the gunas tells
incorporating these lifestyle principles into the yogi’s us if we are genuinely moving
regular habits. This became the foundation of the forward in life (sattva), running
Sivananda style of yoga that is widely practiced today. in place (rajas), or losing our
In the modern health system proper diet and exercise way (tamas)”.
are frequently discussed, however the components of - Rolf Sovik
proper relaxation, proper breathing and meditative
practices are relegated to the realm of complementary
medicine. This 5 point system contains the essential parts
of a complete wellness program for yogis and non-yogis alike. (ref. 3)

In order to clarify what “proper” means in the scope of the 5 Points of Yoga we will look at the

The 5 Points of
1 Proper Relaxation Physical Relaxation- releasing tension in the physical body
Mental Relaxation-slowing and softening the thoughts
Spiritual Relaxation- associating with the spirit releases the burden of the
2 Proper Breathing Creating awareness of the breath patterns and how energy is impacted
freedom for the thoracic and abdominal cavity to change shape in all

3 Proper Exercise movement to keep the physical body strong and to build awareness of the
connection to the emotions and the spirit
Asana practice for a strong and playable body that is capable of service

4 Proper Diet natural unprocessed plant based diet tailored to the individual’s activity
level, stage of life, and time of year
Eating fresh foods with a strong source of vital energy, high prana content

5 Meditation & The thoughts and the state of the mind has a ripple effect to all other
Positive Thinking layers, affirmations, thought editing
The Yamas & Niyamas for the basis for thought and decision making
Dharana trains the mind to focus, Meditation allows the attention to rest in
the seat of the soul.

Three Gunas (properties) of Ayurveda (the sister science to yoga). These three characteristics can be
used to describe all things in existence. The three gunas classify the characteristics embodied by our
food, movement, thought patterns, sensory input and life habits. Eating food that is Sattvic, keeping a
daily schedule that is Sattvic and performing movements that are Sattvic will lead to an experience of

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Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Introduction
balance in the layers of our being. Excess exposure to Rajasic or Tamasic input will create imbalance
and dis-ease in one or more layers of our being. (ref. 2) These three “fibers” are woven together to
create all aspects of life and can be the basis of self-reflection when evaluating the effectiveness of a
yoga practice, wellness program, diet or lifestyle change. (ref. 10)

The Gunas Qualities Input Yoga Practice

Tamas Inertia, stability, Processed food, old or Floor work, yin and
The state of being attachment, spoiled food, alcohol, restorative practice,
Tamasic stillness, lack of exercise and stationary supported,
destruction, dark sunlight breath retention

Rajas Movement, Spicy foods, caffeine, Power yoga and strong

The State of being instability, aversion, coffee, rushing, vinyasa, hot yoga, breath of
Rajasic activity, passion worrying, anger, conflict fire

Sattva Balance, Fresh fruits and A balance of movement and

The State of being wholeness, vegetables, water, stability, yin and yang
Sattvic potential, harmony smooth flowing qualities, meditation
movements, equanimity

What is Yoga Therapy?
Yoga Therapy is a holistic health system that
“Yoga teaches us to cure what
utilizes the tools from the 8 limbs of yoga to bring about
need not be endured and endure
healing. Modern yoga therapy is a blend of ancient what cannot be cured”
yoga practices with current psychological and medical -BKS Iyengar
treatment techniques. Disease is seen as the result of
an imbalance, therefore healing comes from a return to
balance. The Individual is examined through a system known as the Koshas. The Koshas depict the
layers that make up each person. Disfunction on any one of these layers will have a ripple effect to the

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Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Introduction
other layers, manifesting as disease in the body, mind or emotions. The visual depiction shows the
kosha system represented by a series of concentric rings. The layers appear to be separate, however
in reality the health of each layer has an impact on all the other layers.
In yoga therapy treatment techniques are employed to address any symptoms that are present,
while also working to treat the root cause of the symptoms. When symptoms cannot be alleviated
coping strategies are established to decrease suffering and allow the individual to function at the highest
level possible. Two concepts that are central to yoga therapy treatment include cultivating an attitude of
self care and establishing a healthy daily routine that will support the body's natural ability to heal. This
routine will also create a resistance to developing disease in the future.

Yoga Vs. Yoga Therapy

The difference between yoga class and yoga therapy lies in the training of the teacher, the
format in which it is carried out and the overall goal of the sessions. A typical yoga teacher has
completed 200 hours of training that consists of an overview of the 8-limbed path and how to instruct
others along that path. Teaching is carried out in a group setting where most students are around the
same general fitness level. The overall goal of most group classes is to provide instruction that is
generally appropriate for the students in attendance. Prior to class each student fills out a basic health

Yoga Yoga Therapy

Minimum 200 Hours of Training Minimum 1,000 Hours training

Group class from 3-50 or more Individual or small group only
General Health History Form Detailed intake & health evaluation Performed
Targeted at maintaining wellness Targeted at treating a specific condition, bringing about
level of challenge is variable, usually Challenge tailored to the individual’s needs
based on the teacher’s predominant
focus on regular class attendance Focus on establishing a home yoga practice
limited time to ask questions or seek ongoing contact and support for lifestyle changes
often focused on asana practice alone foundation in the 8 limbs of yoga

history form to report any pertinent conditions. The content and difficulty of yoga classes can vary widely
depending on the teacher, the style of yoga, the studio, and the country where it is being
practiced. Yoga practice in a group setting is not prescriptive as it is not targeted at treating any specific
health condition. The goal of most students is to maintain wellness and support a graceful aging
A yoga therapist starts as a 200-hour certified yoga teacher and then completes an additional
1,000 hours of training. That training includes detailed instruction in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology,
physical conditions, mental/emotional conditions and special populations. The training focuses on the
application of yogic techniques that will treat health conditions and imbalances in the koshas. Yoga
Therapy is conducted in a one-on-one session or in specialized small group classes. Therapy begins
with an in-depth evaluation so that both the client and therapist understand what areas need to be
addressed. The treatment sessions consist of practices designed by the Yoga Therapist that provide the
client with "tools" to work on their areas of need. The goal of treatment is to make the client independent
with the prescribed routine and build a home yoga practice that will move them toward their health
goals. Yoga Therapy is the skillful application of yogic techniques in a way that brings about healing.

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Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Introduction
A Brief History of Yoga Therapy:
Yoga therapy is a relatively new application of the ancient system of yoga, especially in the
western world. Yoga was introduced to the United States by Swami Vivekananda at the 1893 World
Parliament of Religions. At that time the Swami focused on the Yamas, Niyamas, Pratyahara, Dharana
and Dhyana as vehicles for spiritual transformation. There was little mention of the asanas or the use of
yoga to treat disease. The movement toward yoga for healing gained traction in 1947 when German
actress, Indra Devi, began teaching yoga in Los Angeles.(ref. 1) She quickly gathered a following of
Hollywood residents that were interested in the healing aspects of yoga. It was not until some time later
that these healing properties were taken seriously by the medical community. In the 1980’s Dr. Dean
Ornish paved the way for modern Yoga Therapy through his research in the reversal of heart disease.
Dr. Ornish used yoga along with dietary changes to create a program that was found to bring about
healing from what was thought to be an irreversible condition. In 1989 the International Association of
Yoga Therapists (IAYT) was formed by Larry Payne, PhD, and Richard Miller, PhD. The IAYT has
become the main regulatory body and credentialing board for Yoga Therapists. This board upholds the
standard level of education for certification as a Yoga Therapist. (ref. 9)
I will end this section by saying that Yoga is a
framework to guide us in the art of living. We do not “Repeatedly seeking
practice yoga for the pride of becoming better at advanced
postures or complex breathing techniques. We practice
perfection while
yoga to become better human beings. In this way your putting our bodies into
practice should be serving to make you a more patient, a series of shapes
compassionate, grounded version of yourself. The final
precaution of your yoga practice is to be vigilant of the role
does not automatically
the ego plays in your mind. Become aware of how your translate into
insecurities can manifest on the mat and have an influence emotional recovery or
over your experience. When the ego follows us onto our healing”
mat, it brings with it the burden of judgement, criticism and - Jane Clapp
self deprecation. By noticing this process and consciously
making the decision to leave the ego out of your practice
you will find your mat to be a haven of self acceptance,
growth and contentment.

L. Goellner YT@TW 17
Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Why Yoga @ The Wall?

Chapter 1
Why Yoga At The Wall
Upon entering any yoga studio there is usually a shelf of assorted props for students to utilize
during the practice. Blocks, bolsters, blankets and straps create a seemingly endless number of ways to
adapt postures. These props can make postures safer and more effective by altering the pose to meet
the student’s needs, rather than the other way around. Yoga props can also become valuable teaching
tools, helping the teacher to draw the student’s attention to a specific aspect of the posture.
Considering the way that props can enhance the work we do on our mats, I am always surprised that
the most readily available yoga prop also happens to be the most under-utilized. Of course I am
referring to a wall. A flat wall is available in nearly every yoga studio and home without the need to
purchase additional equipment. Despite its availability I hardly ever see the wall being utilized, except
during the most challenging arm balances and inversions. Some teachers even go so far as to
discourage using the wall for fear of becoming dependent on it. In this manual we will look at how the
use of this vertical flat surface can add incredible dimension to your yoga practice, whether you are new
to yoga or you have been
practicing for years. The wall is Abhyasa Vairagya
another tool in our yogic “tool Effort Ease
box” that can help shed light on
different components of our Focused Practice Surrender
practice, and it continues to add
Being in the present moment Moving forward as life unfolds naturally
dimension even as we move
away from it.
When describing yoga I find myself constantly coming back to three key concepts: awareness,
balance and the integration of opposites to create wholeness. These themes will present themselves
many times throughout this exploration of Yoga at The Wall. Frequently drawing your mind back to
these key concepts will help you to connect to the core of what yoga is.

Yoga At The Wall Offers:

Stability Support Protection Guidance

Awareness Truth Boundaries Challenge

Balance Integration Cohesion Wholeness

For the experienced yogi there can be a tendency to become “comfortable” with certain poses
that are practiced regularly. Have you ever had the experience of coming into Downward Facing Dog
and being less than mindful because you “know” this pose so well? These well known poses can
sometimes create space for the mind to wander toward thinking about what you will make for dinner or a
phone call that has to be made. A pose can become habitual and in that habit, mindful experience of the
posture can be lost. Take that same pose and practice it in various ways against the wall and it will bring
a new dimension of awareness for even the most seasoned yogi. I have seen this process unfold many
times as students try yoga at the wall for the first time. It is refreshing to experience poses that they
have done hundreds of times before in a completely new way.
For those that are newer to the practice of yoga using the wall early on can be a foundation
teaching tool. It is especially effective at providing proprioceptive input (knowing the body’s position in
space) to create a sense of physical body awareness. As one of my students put it “the wall keeps you
honest, you can’t cheat at the wall”. For those just starting their yoga journey you will also benefit from

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exploring the complete practice of yoga through the 8 Limbed path, rather than just the postures. This
will save you from having to piece information together from various places, effectively jump starting
your exploration of the vast body of knowledge that is yoga. For this reason we will cover practices that
go beyond just asana to incorporate the “still practices” and the philosophical components of yoga.

What Makes Yoga At The Wall Unique
Increasing & Decreasing Challenge
The way that we use the wall to down grade the challenge of a pose may be obvious. The wall
offers support so that balance is more attainable and the muscles don't have to work as hard to hold the
position. This factor alone makes wall practice part of the Accessible Yoga movement. Beginning yogis
or those with injuries that would otherwise be unable to practice a particular posture find it to be more
attainable with the support of a wall. Individuals with balance deficits such as vertigo or Parkinson’s
Disease find a new level of confidence to explore standing postures when using the wall.
At the other end of the spectrum the wall can make practice more challenging. When a posture
is performed using the wall as a reference point for alignment there is no room for compensation. The
wall exposes our true alignment. Standing poses such as warrior II and Triangle feel different when
practiced against a flat surface. This new alignment causes our muscles to engage differently as we let
go of old patterns (samskara). Throughout this manual you will come across poses that can only be
practiced on the wall and that require a great deal of physical strength, stability and balance to execute.
The wall adds to the full spectrum of physical practice, not just the “easy” stuff!

Abhyasa & Vairagya

These two foundational concepts in yoga come together to create a well balanced practice that
is exemplified by yoga at the wall. Abhyasa is focused, direct effort in the practice of yoga. Vairagya is
described as non-attachment or the ability to release resistance to the natural changes of life. These two
concepts together represent opposite ends of the spectrum, but when joined together form the path to a
clear yogic mind. Abhyasa and Vairagya are often described as the wings of a bird. If one is taken away
balance is lost and the bird can no longer fly.

Playing with Gravity

As the wall adds a new dimension to our practice it also creates an opportunity to explore our
relationship to gravity. Performing Chaturanga Dhandasana (low plank) in a position that is directly
against the pull of gravity is very challenging to the strength of the shoulder girdle and core. Taking the
same pose into a standing position against the wall decreases the role gravity plays and allows the
student to build strength gradually without strain. The role of gravity is clearly illustrated when working
on inversions. Poses where the body is turned upside down against the pull of gravity can be
particularly challenging because the body is working in the opposite direction than it was designed to
function. This requires a refined sense of body awareness coupled with a high degree of overall strength
and stability. The wall can become a training ground for building these skills by offering support against
gravity. This can be seen in many versions of headstand and handstand at the wall.

The Back Body

One of the unique aspects of Wall Yoga is how it brings awareness to the back body (posterior
surface). Most of the time our awareness rests in the front of the body. This is due to several factors
including the location of the sense organs, the freedom of the breath in the front of the body and the
presence of mirrors in many yoga studios. The front of the body represents the future and the version of
ourselves that we put out in the world for others to see. Think of this as the "social media" version of our
life. On the other hand the back of the body represents a more vulnerable layer of ourselves. The back
body represents the past and the experiences that we have been through during our life. This is often a
space where we store emotions and memories that we have difficulty dealing with. The back of the heart

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holds emotions that can be difficult to let go of such as pain from intimate relationships, resentment and
betrayal. The therapeutic aspect of yoga at the wall comes from increasing our awareness of these
factors and supporting us as we process through them to let go. The layers of our physical and
emotional being intersect here. The wall provides an ideal surface for posterior chain strengthening, and
posture work as well as a safe space for contemplation and self-reflection.

Using the Wall for Body Awareness

Body awareness is a skill. Some people are naturally more gifted in this area, but like other
skills, our body awareness can improve with practice. The term proprioception is used to describe the
internal awareness of where our body is in space. It is a connection to what your body is doing, how it is
aligned and where movement is happening without relying on visual input. Many students have the
experience of feeling like they are in perfect alignment, then catching a glimpse in the mirror and
realizing their body does not look like they expected it to. The use of mirrors provide an external aide in
improving awareness of alignment through visual feedback. In contrast, the wall provides a physical
reference point to create a stronger internal awareness of alignment. By placing the body against the
wall the body is given tactile input through touch receptors. This gives the brain extra information about
our body alignment and our position in space. Now we can feel if the shoulders are back or feel the
position of the pelvis more effectively. Tapping into that information throughout our exploration of yoga at
the wall improves your skill in body awareness and transfers well to practice away from the wall. I will
frequently tell my students to practice at the “imaginary wall” to encourage transferring what they
learned to the rest of their postures.

Vata Regulating Practice

The supportive, nurturing, grounding characteristics of yoga at the wall make it an ideal practice
to balance a Vata composition. Vata is a category of mind/body characteristics (doshas) in the Ayurvedic
tradition that embody the elements of air, movement and space. If you have experienced periods where
your mind jumps from topic to topic without focus, or the feeling of “brain fog” these are examples of
Vata aggravation (excess air element). In extreme cases excess Vata can manifest as anxiety, panic or
ruminating patterns of worry. Vata is known as the “King of the Doshas” because it is the most common
dosha and it is responsible for all movement within the body that sustains life (vayus). Excess air/ether
or aggravation of Vata creates a feeling of being spacey, ungrounded and unfocused. These are
common complaints in the modern world where we are constantly in motion, both physically and
mentally. The supportive component in wall practice creates an opportunity for the body to settle into a
comfortable stillness and the mind to become clear and focused.

The Wall As a Safe Space

Yoga is a system that brings us to a place of challenge on all levels of our being. We bring our
body into challenging physical shapes. We bring new levels of awareness and control to our breath and
our energetic system. We focus our attention on watching the fluctuations of our mind, emotions and
moods. We work past the preoccupation with the mind and the body to become aware of our intuition,
our inner joy and our true unchanging self. Doing this work often means leaving our comfort zone
behind and doing some deep self-inquiry. This can result in feeling vulnerable. The wall or even the
corner of a room can become a safe space for you to explore these challenges without becoming
overwhelmed. The comfort and sense of protection that comes from working at the wall will be
especially evident in the work that is done in Chapter 12: Cooling Down At The Wall.

Using the Wall for Balance

Through my years of teaching I have noticed that balance can be one of the most challenging,
and frustrating aspects of yoga practice. Balance training is something that is often overlooked by
traditional exercise systems, despite the fact that balance begins to change after the late 20’s. Balance
is impacted by both physical and mental components. Abnormal posture can have an influence on an
individual’s ability to find balance. Our mental focus can also influence the way that we balance. As

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many yogis have come to know, when the mind is busy or
distracted the body will have more difficulty holding balance
postures. “Balance is the key to
Wall Yoga is both a tool for exploration and a practice everything. What we do,
in itself. The range of practice from vinyasa to restorative will think, say, eat, feel. They all
add depth and adaptability to the yogis spectrum of practice. require awareness, and
The emphasis on all components of the yogic system as through this awareness we
outlined in this text creates a well rounded practice with tools can grow.”
to be applied in all areas of need. This will be complimented - Koi Fresco
by the information outlined in the companion Practice Manual.

Body Rolling at the Wall

When working on chronically tight or over active muscles stretching alone will not solve the
problem. Soft tissue work is an effective technique that can be used to enhance the effect of what you
do in your asana practice. The wall offers the perfect stable surface to perform body rolling techniques
for the neck, shoulders, chest and back muscles. Body rolling feels great and is a wonderful form of self
care. It can be a form of sensory input that we use to initiate a relaxation response. It is also a modality
that helps us to get in touch with our body in a way that is completely within our own control, as
opposed to bodywork performed by another person. If you are interested in these techniques look into
Jill Miller’s “Roll Model” book and Yamuna Body Rolling by Yamuna Zake.

Preventing Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

The body relies on a variety of movement patterns for optimal health. When a single movement
is performed over and over the same way the structures involved are at risk of developing an “over use”
injury. RSI is classified as an injury to the tendons, ligaments, muscles or joints that results from
frequent strain that results in pain, soreness, weakness, numbness or tingling. Common overuse
injuries include tendonitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and low back pain. Historically
these injuries resulted from manual labor or office work, however this topic has recently gained more
attention in the yoga world where Vinyasa Flow has become a popular version of physical practice.
Vinyasa practice can involve several repetitions of the sun salutation and numerous transitions through
the transitional flow: downward facing dog, plank, chaturanga, upward facing dog to downward facing
dog. This sequence is known for putting a high demand on the shoulders and wrists, therefore when
practiced repetitively without proper preparation it can contribute to RSI of the upper extremity.
The risk of RSI decreases when we add variety to our movements, when we take time to
prepare for movements, and when we allow adequate recovery time after physical challenge. Creating
variety in movement means working in all three planes while incorporating different types of muscle
contraction (concentric, eccentric, isometric) and different levels of stability (open chain, closed chain,
unstable surface). Preparation for movement may be as simple as taking the time to warm up at the
start of the practice or it can be as complex as building shoulder strength and stability over several
months to work into an arm balancing practice. Both the short term and long term preparation are
needed to prevent RSI. Incorporating recovery into your daily routine could include switching your power
yoga practice for a restorative or meditation practice 1-2x/week or avoiding specific posture/movements
that have caused increased pain. When I was recovering from a rotator cuff injury I did not practice
downward facing dog for over 8 months because I learned that this pose would provoke my symptoms.
Utilizing the wall as a prop is just one way of adding variety to the practice of yoga. This variety
of strengthening, lengthening, stabilizing and mobilizing the body in multiple planes and orientations can
help to decrease the incidence of RSI in whichever vocation or movement system you are participating
in. The information in chapter 7: Upper Extremity At The Wall will be especially relevant to this topic.
Exploring Movement At The Wall:
Isolation Vs Integration

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The movements that we do in yoga practice are complex, multi-plane movements that involve
several joints at a time. This is part of what makes hatha yoga such a dynamic and interesting
movement system. One of the drawbacks to this type of complex movement is that we don’t focus on
movement in one specific joint in one plane of movement very often. This can lead to what Trina Altman
calls “body blind spots”. In the process of trying to put our body into a specific shape we will
unknowingly use compensation techniques to avoid areas that are weak or tight. We may even avoid
poses that address these blind spots, deciding that we don’t like those poses. Instead of uncovering
and addressing the problem we rely on the movement of surrounding joints or muscles to make up for
the areas where there is difficulty. One of the ways that I like to shine light on our blind spots and build
neuromuscular control is through the practice of Isolated and integrated movements. First in the
isolation portion we move through a single movement on a single plane, such as shoulder flexion,
without allowing any of the surrounding structures to change shape (like the thoracic spine). You can
see how using the wall for external support and proprioceptive input can be helpful in the process of
isolated movement. Next we intentionally integrate the movement of shoulder flexion with the
surrounding joints, going into spine extension at the same time. Through the process of comparison we
see how well we are able to isolate a specific movement at one joint and how that movement changes
when the surrounding structures are integrated. Like many of the exercises in this manual it is not
necessarily meant to show you right and wrong, it is more about having the control to isolate a specific
movement when needed or to recruit the surrounding structures when needed.

Facilitation Vs. Inhibition

The range of motion that is available to us is so often attributed to our habitual movement
patterns or lack of movement patterns. While this does play an important role in how we are able to
move, the role of the nervous system cannot be overlooked. Just as people come with a wide variety of
physical attributes, they also come with a unique nervous system default setting. That baseline level of
nervous system activation will dictate how “tight” or “loose” the tissues are and how much movement is
allowed. Individuals with nervous system default settings that allow for large ranges of motion often find
their way into the world of dance, gymnastics or yoga because they are good at activities that require a
high degree of flexibility. Those with a baseline tendency to have lower flexibility but more strength may
find their way into running or weight lifting. Perhaps it is human nature that we are drawn to the things
that come more naturally to us, but this is not necessarily the best way to address our areas of need.
Take a moment to ask yourself- Am I naturally flexible? Do I have innate strength and stability in my
body? Are there some areas of my body that are free to move, while others feel stiff? These self-
inquiry questions can help you to understand if you have an overall tendency toward muscle inhibition or
facilitation, or perhaps there are specific ares of imbalance where these characteristics can be seen.
For those that are already flexible it may not be as beneficial to focus on long held static
stretching to continue to increase that flexibility. Instead a focus on facilitating muscle contraction,
building control and stability around the joints and improving strength will create a better balance. For
those that tend to be tighter movements can be added that safely move into new ranges of motion while
using the breath to calm the nervous system. This will work on inhibition of overactive muscles that are
preventing full range of motion. Within the context of a group yoga class chances are you will have a
mixture of students that need to work on facilitation or inhibition. I like to address this by encouraging an
honest self assessment of their own movement patterns: Where do I need to work on facilitation of
muscle activation and where do I need to work on calming overactive muscles. Then I will offer two
ways of practicing the pose. For example in cobra pose I will say “If you need to build strength in this
pose focus on engaging the back muscles to lift against gravity with little help from the arms. If you are
working on spine flexibility in this direction you can apply more pressure with the arms to move into this
back bend. From the outside the pose will look almost exactly the same, but from the student’s
experience these are two very different ways to work the same pose. This technique also has the
benefit of empowering the student to know their own strengths/weaknesses and to tailor the practice so
it is most beneficial to them.

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An interesting pattern of facilitation and inhibition is found in the muscle imbalance of upper
crossed and lower crossed syndrome. These are common postural imbalances that involve both
overactive and under active muscles together as discussed in Chapter 4: Posture At The Wall.
Open Kinetic Chain Vs. Closed Kinetic Chain
The kinetic chain describes the way that the joints and muscles of the body are linked together
from one end to the other. This concept also hints at the way one weak link can impact the rest of the
chain. Kinetic Chain movement is classified into two groups. Open Kinetic Chain (OKC) movements
keep the distal end of the limb free to move. Closed Kinetic Chain (CKC) movements keep the distal
end of the limb (the hand or the foot) in a static position resting against a support. This support can
come from the floor, the wall or another external surface. Variety of movement is key to the body’s
health and resilience, therefore it is beneficial to include both open and closed kinetic chain movements
in your movement program.

Stabilization at the Wall

Our joints rely on groups of muscles to create movement patterns or to hold the joint in a fixed
position. Our ability to hold fixed positions effectively, even when acted on by external forces (gravity or
someone bumping into you) is known as joint stability. Good joint stability allows for safe movement
patterns and a low risk of injury, while an unstable joint lacks protection from the surrounding muscles
and can be more vulnerable. Joint stability also allows us to hold one joint still (stabilize) while we move
another joint in isolation. The term co-contraction can be used to describe the process that occurs
during stabilization. Force is created by both the Agonist and Antagonist muscles so that the joint is held
in place. This is a simplified view of the muscles, as there are also other synergistic muscles working in
this process, but it helps to shed light on the cooperative effort of the opposing muscle groups.
Sometimes you will hear a teacher say “hug the muscle toward the bone” or “engage all the muscles in
the leg” in an effort to create co-contraction.
Another term that you may hear in yoga circles is joint centration. While this term can be used
to describe joint position in stillness and during movement, I see it as strongly related to joint stability.
Centration is the ability to hold a joint in the position of maximum safety and efficiency. This means
managing the bones at both ends of the joint so that the load is transferred efficiently from one to the
other. If a joint has poor centration the articular surfaces may not be aligned well and the force exerted
in a movement will result in higher strain and decreased power.
The wall offers an ideal space to work on unique closed chain stabilization exercises with the
upper extremity. This can prepare the shoulder for the demands placed on it during weight bearing
poses such as arm balances and vinyasa flows.

Strength at the Wall

Students that attend a yoga class expecting an easy gentle stretch are sometimes surprised to
find out what a strong component strength plays in the yoga asanas. The ability to support our own body
weight or to move against gravity requires strength in movements that most people don’t perform in
daily life. This is particularly true in poses where the arms are used to support some or all of our body
weight. As we will see in Chapter 7: Upper Extremity At the Wall, yoga at the wall offers some unique
ways to build strength in the upper body before moving into full weight bearing postures.
As we discussed above in Facilitation Vs. Inhibition, there are many students in yoga class that
are already naturally flexible, but need to work on building strength. Sometimes this means not going to
the very end range of flexibility, but instead working on facilitation of the muscles surrounding the joint to
build strength. It can be challenging for flexible students to make this paradigm shift, but it is important
for the health of their movement patterns and the long term safety of the joints.

Mobility at the Wall

Mobility training is something that has gained increasing attention in recent years, perhaps as a
counter to the traditional focus on flexibility. Mobility is defined as an ACTIVELY controlled range of
motion. The active control comes from the muscles and nervous system working together to create
movement (internal effort). When we are working to increase the skill of mobility it can be helpful to
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isolate one joint or one movement at a
time. This is because mobility work is “If we are interested in building healthier, more
done in a focused, controlled manner resilient bodies through our yoga practice, we
with full attention. The wall can offer should be working on mobility, rather than
flexibility, in our asanas.
stability to other joints, or to limit other
- Jenni Rawlings
compensatory movements for more
specific mobility work. (ref. 1)

Flexibility at the Wall

Flexibility is a term that refers to the total movement that is available through BOTH active and
passive means. The ACTIVE portion of movement requires strength and neurological connection to
move from internal effort. The PASSIVE portion of movement uses an external force such as gravity or a
wall to move farther. The available movement, or total flexibility of a joint will depend on the status of the
joint and the excursion of the surrounding soft tissue that is moving or being moved.
Traditionally, Hatha yoga was a movement system that used a large component of PASSIVE
stretching to increase the flexibility at each joint to achieve complex asanas. Contemporary yoga
practice is making strides to incorporate a balanced blend of flexibility, active movement, stability and
strength to create a well rounded movement system. Hatha Yoga consists of so much more than just
trying to touch your toes or putting your leg behind your head. When flexibility becomes the main focus
of yoga the depth of the practice is lost. As years pass since the “yoga boom” of the 60’s we are learning
more about the long term effects of yoga practice on the body. While asana practice can be extremely
healthy and nourishing, there is still a risk of over doing and possibly causing harm to the body. In recent
years teachers such as Jill Miller and Diane Bruni have come forward to tell their story of how
aggressive flexibility training lead to serious injuries. As this information comes to light yoga teachers
are working to create a practice that is safer, smarter and more sustainable. I highly recommend
becoming a well informed consumer of yoga and seeking out teachers that belong to this evolution of
blending yoga with modern movement science. Keep in mind that our understanding of the human
body is still very much a work in progress. When approaching asana, or any other aspect of the
practice, keep an open mind and allow yourself to question WHY a particular technique is being used.
Knowledge is fluid, not static.

Strength Stability Flexibility Mobility Endurance

Skill Moving against a Muscle The total The total Being able to
Description force, that force activation that available controlled sustain strength
may be the weight holds an area movement at a movement at a over a period of
of the body or still through co- joint, muscle or joint time
gravity contraction area of soft

Where is Internal effort, internal effort, Internal or Internal effort to Internal effort
the Effort active muscle often isometric external effort: create active dispersed over
Coming contraction, contraction of both active and movement time
From? working the muscles around passive
concentric and a joint movement
Range of Motion Classification
Another important distinction to be made is the difference between active and passive
movements. An Active movement is generated by a person’s muscles through internal effort, while a
passive movement is performed with external effort (gravity, using a strap to pull, using the wall to push
a joint deeper into its Range of Motion). Sometimes these two types of movements are blended together
to what is called Active Assisted movement. This is when some internal effort and some external effort is
used to complete a motion. Lets look at an example of these three different situations:
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Active ROM (AROM) Passive ROM (PROM) Active Assisted ROM

Using the available strength to lift Placing a strap on the foot and Using as much internal effort as
the weight of my leg up against using arm strength to pull the leg possible, supplementing that effort
gravity. This could be classified as a up as high as possible (external with external assistance from the
Mobility exercise as it is working on effort to lift the leg to the end range strap lifts the leg higher but also
the area of active control in the hip of hip flexibility). builds strength and neurological
joint control

Mobility training works to create greater control in the available ROM at a joint. This addresses
the deficits in strength, control and neurological awareness that create the discrepancy in Active ROM
compared to the Passive ROM. Performing Active Assisted ROM can work on building up these skills
and bridging the gap between AROM and PROM. From the outside, Active Assisted Movements and
Passive movements may look similar, but from the internal perspective the experience is very different.
The student works to recruit as much internal effort as possible while using the external effort as a tool
to access new ranges of motion.
Stretching, as we commonly think of in yoga, involves moving the two attachments of a muscle
away from each other. The process of stretching can be performed in four specific ways that are
beneficial to understand in preparation for movement practice. Lets look at the 4 main types of
stretching that we will come across in Yoga at The Wall.
The different stretching techniques can be incorporated into the scope of a yoga practice to
create a diverse movement system, however some techniques are more beneficial at specific points in
the practice. Active Dynamic Stretching involves movement of the muscle groups and can be effectively
incorporated into the warm up portion of the practice. This type of stretching feeds into the skill of
mobility, and is seen as a form of stretching that puts less strain on the joint, therefore having a lower
potential risk of injury. Active Dynamic Stretching also creates a learning opportunity for the student to
recognize the process of reciprocal inhibition in the muscle groups. When the Agonist (primary mover)
muscle is contracted the Antagonist (opposing muscle group) relaxes and lengthens. This phenomenon
allows the paired muscle groups of the body to work effectively without “fighting” each other. Dynamic
stretching is the technique used in the vinyasa flow form of yoga where each movement only lasts for a
part of the breath. The body moves with control in and out of postures, finding the end range of joint
movement, then coming out again. You can see how this dynamic form of stretching creates heat and
circulation in the body through constant movement and contraction of the agonist muscles. Dynamic
stretching is also seen in the Pilates system of movement. Many Pilates techniques involve slow,
controlled movement in and out of a joint’s end range of motion. The result is a muscle group with good
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The 4 Types of Active Stretching: Passive Stretching:

Stretching Using the Agonist to lengthen Using external force to lengthen the
Static: Holding a position with active Staying in a lengthened position with external
staying in the contraction on the Agonist Muscle to force, such as gravity, a prop or body weight.
stretch for a lengthen the antagonist muscle group: (Hold 20 seconds up to 5 minutes in yin
portion of time reciprocal inhibition (hold 20-45 sec) practice)

Stationary Hold:

Dynamic: Controlled, active movement in/out of a Using external force to move into a lengthened
Moving in and range of motion with emphasis on the position of the muscle, such as gravity or body
out of the stretch end range: reciprocal inhibition (repeat weight (eccentric lengthening), then actively
slowly 10x ) shortening to come out (repeat 10x)


Static stretching, especially when held for a longer period of time, is better suited to the end of
the practice. At this point the muscles have increased warmth and blood flow. The strengthening portion
of the practice is completed so the muscles will not be required to exert force, which can be diminished
after longer passive stretches. Since Static stretching involves being stationary it does not generate
heat in the body the way that dynamic stretching does. This makes passive static stretching better
suited to the cool down portion of the practice. This form of stretching can also put more strain on the
joints as the force of stretching is sustained for a period of time. Yin yoga is a type of practice that
consists of long held passive static stretches that often last 3-5 minutes each. This extended time spent
in stillness with deep sensation of stretching creates a unique situation that is said to be like “training
wheels” for meditation. For many yogis the longer held passive static stretches are their first experience
of being completely alert without moving. The practice of yin yoga will be discussed further in Chapter
Getting Started with Yoga At the Wall:
Mat Set up
A yoga mat is a valuable tool in your practice as it creates a nonslip surface and adds some cushioning
for the body. Yoga mats are available at a wide variety of retailers at a variety of price points, however it
is recommended that you invest in a natural rubber mat as it will provide a nontoxic surface that will last

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for many years. The position of the mat will change based on the sequence you are practicing and may
need to be changed throughout your practice. There are three main ways of setting up your mat:

Parallel To the Wall Perpendicular to the Wall Folded at the wall

This setup works well for This set up is used when using this setup is best for kneeling or
standing poses with the back of the wall for hand or foot support seated positions as there is
the body against extra padding for the Knees
and feet

Additional Props
Props make yoga postures safe and
accessible for the practitioner, rather than
trying to force the body into the posture.
Props are readily available from sporting
good stores or online, but household
objects can often be creatively substituted
for home practice. The main props used in
this book include:
Blocks: yoga blocks come in several
different materials, however foam blocks
are the most versatile and affordable.
Natural materials such as cork and wood
are also available, but they offer a firmer
surface compared to a foam block. For
home practice a stack of books can be
Strap: the yoga strap makes it possible to
hold areas that may otherwise be out of
reach. The double D rings on the yoga strap make it possible to form a loop of any size that can be
adjusted quickly. If a traditional yoga strap is not available a tie or soft belt can be substituted.
Blanket: a traditional Mexican blanket is often used in yoga as it can be folded in specific ways and has
a better density than other blankets. A large beach towel or small throw blanket can be substituted.
Wedge: a foam wedge is most often used for alleviating wrist pain in weight bearing positions, but it can
also be used in positioning the feet and pelvis. If a wedge is not available the edge of the mat can be
rolled for a similar effect.
Chair: for the sequences in this book a sturdy folding chair or armless dining room chair can be utilized.
Traditionally a backless folding chair is used as a prop because it offers the most versatility.
Sandbag: gentle deep pressure is very calming to the nervous system and can help to bring awareness
to specific areas of the body. The pressure of a sandbag can be used to encourage release, yielding to
the weight, or activation by working against the weight. If a sandbag is not accessible a book can
sometimes be substituted.

L. Goellner YT@TW 27
Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Chapter 1: Why Yoga @ The Wall?
Bolster: this large firm support comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and can
be used in a variety of different restorative poses.
Pillow: these come in handy whenever padding, lift or support is needed. A
variety of sizes and shapes are helpful.
Kneeling pad: these are especially helpful to students with sensitive knees or
during poses when the knee cap takes a lot of pressure
Eye pillow: a prop for restorative yoga or during savanna to block the light
during restorative poses.
Z-lite: This is not traditionally a yoga prop, but rather a sleeping pad for
camping. This prop is particularly helpful because the accordion structure
allows you to change the size and shape quickly as you move from pose to
pose and you need different types of support.
Trecking Poles: this is also not a traditional yoga prop, but something used for
support while hiking. The use of poles when working with students that have
difficulty with posture or balance deficits can be especially effective.

The Specifics of Utilizing the Wall as a Prop

There are two main factors that come into play when using the wall: body orientation & distance to the
Body Orientation to the Wall
This includes what part of the body is facing the wall and what parts of the body are touching the wall.
Any given pose can be explored in multiple variations by changing the orientation to the wall. Through
this process yoga at the wall becomes a playground for experiencing asana. Lets look at some of the
orientation options to fully explore a posture during wall yoga. This progression of Downward Facing
Dog allows the yogi to focus on different aspects of breathing and alignment in each. The supine
versions require
less muscular
effort to maintain
while the
inverted pose
requires strong
muscular effort.

another example
the wall lets us
explore several
variations of tree Tree back to the wall Side Bending Tree: Supine: Foot on the wall
knee support
pose. When
practicing tree
on the mat we
are often
unaware of the
rotation that
happens in the
pelvis in order to
open the knee of
the raised leg.
When the back
is placed against Facing the Wall Side bending Tree: hip Side lying tree: foot on the wall
the wall this support

L. Goellner YT@TW 28
Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Chapter 1: Why Yoga @ The Wall?
rotation can be felt immediately.

Distance from the Wall

With each of the body orientation positions described above the element of distance comes into play. In
some orientations the length of the arm or leg will dictate the distance from the wall as shown on the left
side of the chart. In other poses there is a range of distance that can be utilized and adjusted according
to the student’s preference. This can be seen in the seated side bend with the top version showing the
angle when sitting close to the wall and the bottom version showing the larger angle created when
seated farther
from the wall.

In these
positions the
distance from the
wall will be based
on the student’s
Heels on the Wall Palms on the wall Supine legs on the wall
level of strength,
flexibility, body
proportions and
balance when
executing the
positions. One
body proportion in
particular that Hands at Blocks on the Wall Inverted with Feet on the Supine with hands on the
impacts wall wall wall
practice is the
gluteal region. When standing with the back of the body to the wall the size of the buttocks needs to be
taken into consideration when establishing neutral alignment. Distance from the wall can also change
depending on what they want to focus on. Moving farther from the wall may create space to work on
increased flexibility, where staying closer to the wall will create an ideal position to focus on alignment
and stability.

Arms Length From the wall Arms Length Bent Elbow, Tented Seated Side bend;
Fingers Close

Leg Distance From the Wall Bent Knee: 90’ Wide Leg Side Stance Seated Side Bend

L. Goellner YT@TW 29
Yoga Therapy @ The Wall Chapter 1: Why Yoga @ The Wall?
Heels Away from the Wall: Padding Behind the Back: Padding Behind the Back:
No Padding Maintaining the Vertical Line Accommodate the Gluteal

When the feet move away from The space from the heels to the For those with larger proportions
the wall and the back rests at the wall is maintained, the padding is in the Gluteal area padding may
wall a slight angle of flexion is used to make up that space so that be placed behind the back so that
created at the hip joint. the upper body and lower body the buttocks rests at the wall but
This position can increase the stay aligned the vertical line of the spine is
feeling of stability with the back to maintained
the wall.
What if I really don't have any Wall space?
If you have a particularly small home, as I do, it is possible to do nearly all of these sequences
using the front of the refrigerator if necessary. It is also possible to use a door that can be closed and
locked to ensure no one will try to open it while you are using it. In the Practice Manual we will explore
some unusual options that include use of other supports such as a chair, the kitchen counter, a picnic
table or even a tree. Feel free to get creative with these sequences and the props that you use for

L. Goellner YT@TW 30

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My Story (so far)

As a child I was fascinated by dinosaur bones and fossils. I had plans of growing up to become a
paleontologist, traveling around the world to hunt for new discoveries. It wasn't until high school biology
class that my focus started to shift toward the human body. The dynamic systems that come together to
create a functioning organism were amazing to me. I was especially interested in the resilience of the
body and the way that it could heal itself. Some teenagers have drawers full of clothes and posters of
boy bands on the walls. I had drawers full of rocks and posters of reflexology charts on my bedroom

During my junior year of high school I was going through

the college application process. I remember feeling overwhelmed
with the choices and desperately wanting to figure out my career
so that I could pick the right school. I had an image in my head
of what my career should incorporate…something based in
science that involved helping others, integrating holistic healing
practices, utilizing elements of psychology, and art. I explained
this vision to my guidance counsellor and the next day he
suggested that I look into Occupational Therapy. As he explain
what Occupational Therapists do I felt something click. That was
the exact career path that I was looking for.

After graduating high school I moved from the mountains

of northern New Jersey toward the shore to attend Richard
Stockton College. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with
a minor in visual art. I was then accepted into the Masters of
Science in Occupational Therapy program. The summer before
graduate school I was working as a freelance mural artist. I
strongly considered turning down my seat in the graduate
program to start my own business, but the pull of a “steady” job
was strong. That fall I sold my painting supplies and focused all of my attention toward the demands of
graduate school and my career as a therapist.

It was fortuitous that yoga found me during during these challenging transitional years. I had no
idea that the Denise Austin yoga VHS tape I took with me to college would change my life. During my
time at college I went from practicing with videos in my dorm room to attending a live class at the local
Hindu Temple. By the time I turned 20 I decided to become a teacher and completed a distance learning
course at a local power yoga studio. I started teaching yoga to guests at the hotel where I worked my
summer job. Soon after I was offered a position teaching yoga at my college on Tuesday & Thursday
evening. At this time I did the best that I could with my limited training and experience, but I quickly
started to realize that I needed more training. During my senior year of undergraduate study my favorite
anthropology professor opened a yoga studio. The incredible classes, workshops and 200 hour teacher
training that I completed at Yoga Nine under Laurie Greene became the foundation of my therapeutic
teaching style.

After passing my board exam to become an Occupational Therapist I took a job at an inpatient
rehabilitation facility. This allowed me to gain experience working with individuals that had a huge variety
of medical conditions. It was also an eye opening experience, at the age of 23, to spend so much time
working with people nearing the end of their life. In some instances I was able to utilize breath work,
relaxation techniques and basic principles of yoga to enhance the therapy sessions that I was carrying
out. As word got out that I was a yoga teacher the management asked me to start teaching a yoga class
in the evening for the staff and family members of the patients. At the end of the day I would roll the
therapy equipment to the sides of the room and people would roll out their mats. Since many of the
students were beginners I started to theme my classes as a way to build up skills over a period of time.
Students would express concern if they had to miss a class because they did not want to miss the lesson
of the week. That was when I decided to bring in my camera and film the class to post on YouTube. This
became a way for everyone to stay up to date on the class themes and It became a valuable way for me
to get feedback and improve my teaching style.
My Story (so far)

During the early part of my career as a yoga teacher I was plagued by feelings of not being good
enough. I felt like my asana practice was not advanced enough to be a teacher. I felt like I was not strong
enough, flexible enough and I did not dedicate enough time toward the achievement of advanced poses.
The reality of the situation was that my life was extremely demanding and the yoga mat was my refuge.
After facing physical, mental and emotional demands throughout the day I needed to be soothed, not
challenged further. I tried to force myself to teach a power vinyasa class because that was what I thought
a yoga teacher their 20’s should do, and that was what I thought the students wanted. Years of neglecting
my self care coupled with forcing my body into poses that felt unnatural eventually resulted in a rotator
cuff injury. I could not lift my left arm over head without pain, let alone hold Downward Facing dog. It was
inconceivable to me that yoga, this system that was touted for its healing properties, could have
contributed to my injury. During the period of time that followed my injury I experienced a “falling from
grace” as well as a great revelation about yoga. My injury forced me to dedicate more time to the still
practices of yoga and to finally embrace my tendency toward slow, nurturing, restorative yoga. The
recovery process also helped me to realize how integrating modern movement science, strengthening
and stabilization can help to build more resilience in the body. As I started to draw this new perspective
into my teaching I was pleasantly surprised to find that this approach resonated with many of my
students. I was finding my natural voice as a teacher and the process of teaching became incredibly

I was at work one day when a coworker told me there was a yoga studio opening right across the
street. I called the owner that day and set up a meeting to see if I could teach at the studio. Upon meeting
Heidi she handed me a key to the studio and I started my regular Monday & Wednesday night class that
would become “Yoga Focus”. Hummingbird yoga studio ended up being the perfect match for my gentle
teaching style. The students enjoyed the class themes that I developed and I decided to start using The
Yoga White Board as a visual aide when teaching. I wanted to document the boards that I created and the
themes that I was teaching each week so I opened an Instagram account as another way to share

Several years of working as an Occupational Therapist in a highly demanding setting and

teaching yoga every night left me feeling completely burnt out. It was a combination of compassion
fatigue coupled with a feeling of being stuck. I can remember sitting on my front steps on a Sunday night
looking at my schedule for the week feeling suffocated. I was so over scheduled that I knew where I
would be and what I would be doing every minute of my week. I was working a schedule that was
unsustainable to pay for a mortgage, a mountain of student debt and bills that came from doing what I
was “supposed to” do with my life. As I struggled with my lack of job satisfaction I was also coming to
realize that I married someone that did not share my values or aspirations. My husband was sucked into
the vortex of opiate addiction and my life became complete uncontrollable chaos.

In 2013 I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the health care system that I was working
in, and I was struggling through an incredibly complicated and emotionally draining divorce. The
overwhelming amount of pain I was experiencing forced me to recognize that things needed to change. I
scraped together a little bit of money and purchased a 1977 Holiday Rambler Travel Trailer to spend the
summer in. That trailer became my haven by the lake. A safe space to think, dream and draw the
fragmented pieces of myself back together. I worked as much as possible over the next several months
until I had enough money saved to leave my job. I gave myself the gift of five months to go hiking, do
volunteer work, visit family and spend a month at Yogaville. During my time in Yogaville I decided that I
could not go back to my old job, but instead I would expand my skills by getting my license as a massage
therapist. At the end of massage school I decided to attend a training to become a Certified Lymphedema
Therapist. I look back at this time in my life as a period of reinvesting into my life and steering myself in
the direction that I needed to go.

When I felt ready to return to working as a therapist I was hired by an Outpatient Therapy Clinic
that specialized in holistic treatment of progressive neurological conditions. This created an opportunity
for me to dive deeper into yoga as a therapeutic modality and I received my Yoga Therapist certification
from the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) in 2017. I have been teaching a class
specially designed for individuals living with Parkinson's Disease and other movement disorders since I
started working at Body In Balance in 2015. This format of teaching yoga was a great match for my
personal style and my educational background.
My Story (so far)

Over the past several years I have been

working on shifting my lifestyle to align more
closely with my beliefs. This often meant making
decisions that were unusual and unsupported by
my family and friends. One of the biggest
decisions I made was the purchase of a 192
square foot tiny house on wheels in 2016. Living
in a small space and following minimalist
principles allowed me to free up the time I needed
to write this manual. It also allowed me to pay off
my student loans and to move toward a debt free
lifestyle. I was able to purchase a fully electric car
in 2018, helping me to move toward my goals of
living with a lower environmental impact. It was
through the process of making these difficult
decisions that I finally felt like I was living my life
the way that I wanted to.

My lifestyle is a constant work in progress, but the

greatest victory that came out of my past struggles was the
ability to make decisions based on the way that I want to live
my life, instead of going along with what is “normal”. I am
always trying to find a balance between my career as a
therapist, teaching yoga and finding time to do the things that
bring me the most joy. I have come to understand that
spending time immersed in nature is vital to my spirit.
Traveling, hiking, camping and spending time in the natural
world are some of the most restorative and unifying
experiences to me. On special days when the weather is just
right I can enjoy one of my favorite experiences…yoga
On a snowy March evening in 2014 I met Patrick.
From our very first conversation I knew I had found a person
that wanted a life that was unique and full of adventure. We
bonded over our love of coffee, simple living and a desire to
see the world. He ended up being the photographer for this
manual, my partner in Tiny House living and the best travel
companion I could ask for. We adopted Redford in the fall of
2017 to complete our tiny house family.

My future projects include a

manual on Therapeutic Yoga for
the Lymphatic System, an online
functional anatomy course for
yoga teachers and workshops
on nervous system regulation
and self care practices. I will
also continue to add to the body
of work that is “Yoga Therapy At
the Wall”. This will include live
workshops, online trainings and
a companion practice manual
with additional wall yoga
sequences. Thank you for your
support of “Yoga Therapy at The
Wall” & allowing me to be a part
of your yoga journey!