A brief history of the yoga rope wall
Did you know that bats and sloths are the only two mammals in the animal kingdom that don’t get arthritis? The one thing they uniquely have in common is they spend much of their lives hanging upside down. Because of this their joints escape the typical wear and tear other creatures experience, and they suffer from less joint degeneration as a result.
The rope wall is yoga’s answer to achieving some of the same health benefits. It was first developed by BKS Iyengar, who used it as a prop to support and intensify his asana practice. He called the rope work “yoga kurunta,” which means “yoga puppetry.”
Benefits of using the yoga rope wall
The ropes work by using gravity as a natural form of resistance causing the body to open much further than in regular yoga practice. Like the bats and sloths hanging upside down, this releases tension from the joints and deeply stretches the entire muscular-skeletal body.
Rope poses are especially beneficial for spine health through use of traction to relieve pressure from vertebral discs, which soothes compressed nerves and quiets the mind. They can also be used to create deep opening through the organic body, increasing extracellular fluid and blood flow to nourish the organs and tissues.
Types of yoga rope wall
There are several different types of rope wall set up, ranging from simple, inexpensive eye screws that you could fit into a wall yourself, to more elaborate systems using ball and socket joints for easy attachment of the ropes. Following are brief descriptions with links for where to buy materials, how to build your own rope wall, where to purchase premade ropes and a wall system, and info on how to books and videos.
Eye screw set up
The eye screw set up is the cheapest and easiest to make. It uses 2″ eye screws attached to the wall by drilling into wall studs found in wood framed walls. The screw needs to be fixed into the very center of the stud without splitting the wood, which can be tricky, so it’s advisable to get a professional handy man or general contractor to fit them for you.
Marshall’s Hardware of San Diego or any professional grade hardware store should carry the screws. Anything smaller than 2″ is too small to use with 5/8″ thick rope. Anything larger than 2″ is difficult to find and probably too big to use with standard wall studs.
You can also use climbing grade karabina clips to connect the ropes to the eye screws, which makes them easier to attach and detach from the wall. The karabinas will make the ropes longer by the length of the clip so you will need to tailor the rope length to accommodate them.
Following are links to several different types of rope wall set up: PDF with instructions for the eye screws method (seen right screwed into a tiled wall); instructions for wood paneled rope wall (as seen in the first and third photos on this page); and temporary rope wall configurations.
The web pages at the construction instructions links above provide measurement details. The heights of the ropes can also be custom sized to your height. For example, the top ropes should be no higher than you can conveniently reach, and the middle ropes should be high enough to give you good suspension in poses like downward facing dog. Also, remember to use a location that provides clearance on either side of the ropes for poses that require more horizontal space.
Premade rope wall
You can purchase a partially premade yoga wall system, which uses an innovative ball and socket mechanism to fix the ropes to the wall at The Great Yoga Wall. Also check out Socal Yoga Walls for custom installation of premade Great Yoga Walls, with installation services available nationally in the US.
Yoga ropes for purchase
You can buy premade yoga ropes online at Yoga Props or Tools for Yoga. A set of four custom sized ropes can also be purchased from a local San Diego supplier who I highly recommend for great quality ropes. The San Diego supplier will custom tie the ropes to spec for your particular rope wall and has two thicknesses of rope and various colors to choose from. They are happy to mail out of state. Contact them at email@example.com.
Tying your own ropes
There are several short YouTube videos which show how to tie the ropes in the triple fisherman’s knot classically used for the rope wall: here, here and here.
The ropes I use now are about 1/2″ in diameter. If they are much wider than this the triple fisherman’s knot will be too thick for most women’s hands to grip well, and if they’re too thin they’re uncomfortable to hold.
If you are a do-it-your-selfer, here is an account of searching for good rope by local yoga student David George:
“Hardware stores usually only carry nylon rope, which is what you want if you can’t find the elusive poly-cotton type since it is fairly soft, but I could only find twisted nylon rope in 5/8″ size. Twisted rope feels soft initially, but under a load it gets hard and it is not comfortable. Braided nylon rope only comes in diameters of up to 7/16″ in most hardware stores, which is still too small. I did find braided polypropylene rope in 5/8″, but it’s stiffer than the nylon and doesn’t have as good a feel. You could try using climbing rope, but I think it still feels too hard and its ungodly expensive.”
You can also purchase boating rope from West Marine in San Diego. I used it to make some yoga ropes for my studio some years back and it did a fine enough job. However, it stretched out after several thousand uses from students, so a non-stretch type rope would be preferable.
Using the rope wall safely
I strongly recommend seeking out a professionally trained and experienced yoga rope wall teacher to help “show you the ropes” before you start practicing on your own. Most Iyengar Yoga certified teachers are well qualified to help you explore the yoga ropes safely.
Not only should rope wall teachers be professionally trained, but they should also have a personal rope wall practice of at least several years before teaching rope wall postures to others. This way they will have a more thorough understanding of the practice and how to avoid its potential hazards of falls, overstretching, and joint and muscle strains.
How to books
Yoga a Gem for Women by Geeta Iyengar.
Yoga Kurunta by senior Iyengar yoga teacher Chris Saudek.
Yoga Kurunta: A guide to Iyengar Yoga practice with wall ropes by David Jacobs
Yoga Kurunta: Learning the Ropes by the Boston Yoga Ropes Collective
How to create your own ropes set up (or use what you have available) PDF from the Boston Yoga Ropes Collective
I also have over a thousand photos of Iyengar Yoga prop use at my Pintrest account, which includes many yoga rope wall poses.
How to videos
Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar on Yoga Kurunta YouTube video with Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar on the use of ropes for the practice of yoga.
Rope 1 with Lois Steinberg Ph.D. YouTube video with advanced Iyengar Yoga teacher Lois Steinberg showing how to practice rope 1.
Rope Sirsasana with Lois Steinberg Ph.D. YouTube video with advanced Iyengar Yoga teacher Lois Steinberg showing how to practice variations of rope Sirsasana.
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