Acclimating with Leah: Up against a wall at Rakta Hot Yoga
August 9, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Coming off a week of bronchitis, I was looking for a class that was more therapeutic, rather than a rigorous workout.
So, I walked into Sandy Fallon's non-heated, wall yoga class at Rakta Hot Yoga on Wednesday, warning her that I could cause a disturbance with my never-ending chest cough. She assured me that this class would help.
We started by anchoring our bottoms in a strap swing about an inch off the ground and hoisting our legs up against the wall for a hamstring stretch. Then, we'd move into a series of movements typical to any yoga class, like downward dog, only we had our torsos anchored in the straps.
A few seconds into the downward dog pose, Fallon tells us to let go of the ground and just hang our upper bodies from the strap, with our feet still planted on the ground.
"In anyone's downward dog they may have shoulder issues, or they're stronger on this side than that side, so their downward dog is off," Fallon said. "So, the fact you can anchor the hips, you can truly allow the entire spine to relax. You get all the benefits of spinal traction without any need to use hands, arms, head or your neck."
That's the whole idea behind wall yoga: if you have a limitation, the strap accommodates that and allows you to do movements properly.
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"There's a lot of people who are new to yoga, and it's great for people who have never done yoga before," Fallon said. "You're not moving fast, so there's less risk of injury. We talk about the alignment, and you can really find with the straps how posture should feel."
Fallon provides a reason for every movement throughout the class, but her language is unique. As a former physician's assistant, Fallon has a deep understanding of anatomy and wellness, so hearing her specific anatomical terms and expertise is comforting.
She also notes that wall yoga is still advantageous to the advanced yogi, because it opens them up to new ideas and keeps them aware of the correct way to execute different poses.
My favorite part of the class was the inversion. The strap is almost like a swing, you adjust it so that it holds your sacrum while you gradually walk your feet up against the wall and hang your upper body upside down.
I was never the little kid who enjoyed hanging upside down, so I was admittedly terrified of the idea.
I let go of the straps and hung upside down, trying to act like I wasn't freaking out. But after a few seconds, I felt relaxed.
Inversions are part of wall yoga's therapeutic nature. It floods the brain with fresh oxygen and blood and teaches our arteries to expand and contract more efficiently. Fallon also notes that it reverses our lymphatic flow, which serves as an immunity booster.
Then she assured me that this was just what I needed for my bronchitis.
"You reverse the blood flow everywhere, so in the lungs we only tend to use 20 to 30 percent of our lung capacity," Fallon said. "So the fact you are literally flipping upside down, reverses mucus and everything in the lungs, so if you do need to cough something up, it allows things to be free."
Fallon fell in love with wall yoga while on vacation in Colorado Springs and sought certification.
Fallon has been teaching a variety of yoga classes for seven years but said that wall yoga is so important to her that she incorporates at least 15 hours of it into the training plan for her instructors.
But Rakta Hot Yoga extends beyond the yoga classes. Fallon wanted to use her background in health to help others beyond writing prescriptions, so she hosts a series of free wellness workshops that are open to the public.
"I love the idea of being able to provide true wellness with your yoga," Fallon said. "It was something I hadn't seen before."
Each month, Fallon either provides a wellness talk or welcomes an expert to speak on their discipline. On Sept. 16, Fallon will be giving a talk on the basic background of hormones. The following month, she'll host a child psychologist.
Fallon also hosts group discussions on nutrition and will be starting a book club soon.
The Rakta five-class package is $75 and the 10-class package is $130. The unlimited monthly membership is $120. Wall yoga is typically offered on Wednesdays, but a full schedule of classes and wellness workshops can be found at raktahotyoga.com.