Legs up the wall pose or Viparita Karani, this pose is an essential part of my at home yoga practice. Viparita means “inverted” or “reversed”, and karani means “doing” or “making. This pose is restorative and is the perfect way to end the day or anytime you need a break to relax deeply.
Much has been written about the health benefits of this pose. It improves digestion, relives mild backaches, reduces headaches, and alleviates tired or cramped legs and feet. In addition, Viparita Karani gently stretches the backs of the legs, opens the heart, and quiets the mind.
Ancient Hindu texts claim that it can even keep you looking young. I’m not going to lie, that does sound appealing!
The main reason I started practicing this pose multiple times a week was for stress and anxiety reduction. Life gets busy and hectic at times. Making Viparita Karani part of my self-care routine has helped me a great deal.
This pose can be practiced with our without a bolster under your hips. The bolster adds more comfort and support but it is not a critical piece. You will receive the benefits of this pose without it. I recommend lying down on a blanket or your mat if you have hardwood floors. You want to be as comfortable here as possible.
Practicing Viparita Karani
1. Clear a space and get your blankets or props together. Sit on the floor with your butt as close to the wall as possible. Take your legs up the wall. Slide yourself as close to the wall as you can. Make your legs hip width apart and flex your feet. Engage the muscles of your legs slightly (to help them stay awake) and take your arms out to the side palms face up. Another option is to have one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly.
2. If your hamstrings are tight take the backs of your legs further away from the wall. If your shoulders are tight place a rolled up blanket or towel under your neck to support your cervical spine. You can also place a cloth over your eyes.
3. Once you find your way into the pose allow your shoulders and hips to melt into the floor. Relax your facial muscles and soften the throat. Follow the natural rise and fall of your breath. Try to stay in this pose for 3 minutes. You can stay in up for 15 minutes.
4. To exit the pose take your legs into a cross leg position and rest there for a few breaths. Next take your knees into your chest and roll to your right side. Take a few breaths there and then make your way up into a seated position.
5. Notice the effects of the pose.