Legs Up the Wall is a rejuvenating inverted pose that brings relief to the legs, feet, spine, and nervous system. It is a gentle way to bring the body into a state of deep relaxation and renewal. This pose is recommended for all yoga students, no matter their level of experience. Its Sanskrit name, “Viparita Karani” literally translates to “inverted action.” It has anti-aging effects on your body, apart from a host of other health benefits. Some Hindu scriptures state that the Viparita Karani not only reduces wrinkles but also keeps both old age and death at bay. This asana, being a restorative pose, allows the blood to circulate to every part of the body.
What You Should Know Before You Do The Asana
This asana must be performed on an empty stomach. You must have your meals at least four to six hours before you practice yoga. You must also make sure that your bowels are empty. Women who are menstruating should consult with their teacher before practicing inversions, such as Viparita Karani. Do not practice this pose if you have glaucoma or other eye problems, or a serious back or neck injury.
How To Do The Viparita Karani : Step-by-Step Instructions
Being a restorative pose, many people enjoy using props like bolsters, pillows and folded blankets while doing this asana. Keep a prop of your choice next to you while doing this asana. Then, follow these steps.
- Find an open space near a wall and sit next to it, such that your feet are on the floor, spread in front of you, and the left side of your body is touching the wall.
- Exhale. Lie on your back, making sure that the back of your legs press against the wall, and that the soles of your feet face upwards. It will take you a little bit of movement to get comfortable in this position.
- Place your buttocks a little away from the wall or press them against the wall.
- Make sure your back and head are resting on the floor. You will find that your body forms a 90-degree angle.
- Lift your hips up and slide a prop under them. You could also use your hands to support your hips and form that curve in your lower body.
- Keep your head and neck in a neutral position and soften your throat and your face.
- Close your eyes and breathe. Hold the position for at least five minutes. Release and roll to any one side. Breathe before you sit up.
Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- Breathe consciously throughout the pose. Continually bringing your awareness back to your breath will help relax your mind and body even further, preparing your body for a deep, renewing state of health and well-being.
- It might feel awkward getting into the pose the first few times you try it. Don’t worry about that, and take your time getting there correctly. Once you’re in the pose, you will gain all the benefits!
Use your breath to ground the heads of the thighs bones into the wall, which helps release your groins, belly, and spine. In the pose imagine that each inhalation is descending through your torso and pressing the heads of your thigh bones closer to the wall. Then with each exhale, pin your thighs to the wall and let your torso spill over the bolster away from the wall and onto the floor.
Modifications & Variations
Here are a few suggestions:
- It’s not necessary for your sit bones to touch the wall. However, you should be in a position where you can release the need to “hold up” your thigh bones. Those with more flexible bodies can use a higher support or move closer to the wall; those with stiffer bodies should try a lower support or move further away from the wall. Try various heights of support and placements against the wall to determine the most comfortable and supported position for your body.
- For greater support under your neck, place a small, rolled towel beneath the back of your neck.
- For an added stretch to your thighs, hips, and groins, spread your legs wide into a “V” shape.
- For a deeper release to your groins and hips, bend your knees and place the soles of your feet together. Let the outer edges of your feet slide down the wall, bringing your heels in toward your pelvis.
- To assist with releasing low back tension, have a friend or teacher drape a sand bag across the soles of your feet or your heels when you’re in the full pose. Be sure to keep your ankles flexed and your feet flat! The extra weight will help to relieve tension in your back and will help the heads of your thigh bones release more deeply.
- For extra support on your thighs, wrap a yoga strap around your thighs when you’re in the pose, just above your knees. This will help keep your legs in place, which will allow them to relax more easily.
Benefits Of The Viparita Karani
Ancient yoga texts claim Viparita Karani will destroy old age. Many modern teachers agree to its other benefits, including relief from:
- Mild depression
- Muscle fatigue
- Digestive problems
- High and low blood pressure
- Respiratory ailments
- Urinary disorders
- Varicose veins
- Menstrual cramps and premenstrual symptoms
In addition, Viparita Karani also helps to promote balance and well-being throughout the systems of the entire body, including a:
- Strengthened immune system
- Balanced hormonal system
- Calmed nervous system
- Stabilized digestive and elimination systems
- Regulated respiratory system
Some yoga traditions also recommend Viparita Karani as an important post-coital pose for women to increase the possibility of conception.
Viparita Karani is usually sequenced near the end of a practice just prior to Savasana or sitting pranayama.
Regularly integrating Viparita Karani into your week can be an easy way to relax and restore your body, mind, and spirit. It can feel great after a long day, after traveling, or after spending a lot of time on your feet. Try doing this pose for five minutes on the days when you don’t feel like doing a full yoga practice — you may be amazed at the rejuvenating power of this simple pose!