HOW TO PRACTICE Legs Up the Wall Pose IN YOGA (Viparita Karani)
Benefits, How to Instructions, Modifications, and Common Alignment Mistakes for Legs Up the Wall Pose
Legs Up the Wall Pose (Sanskrit name: Viparita Karani) is a little moment of heaven. Nothing to do but let go. This yoga pose can be practiced in almost any setting and can be the perfect moment of calm needed to refresh your mind and physical energy. It is both an inversion and a restorative yoga posture, so the benefits from Legs Up the Wall Pose are ample.
Viparita Karani means “clear lake.” The lake refers to the oval area between the bottom of the sternum and top of the pubic bones. In order for the “lake” to be clear, it should be horizontal in the asana. This usually means that the buttocks will need to rest somewhat off the edge of your bolster or blankets, toward the wall. If your torso ends up on a diagonal line, with the “lake” spilling toward your neck and chest, the weight of the body will spill into the shoulders, neck and head, making the yoga pose uncomfortable and not restful. Make sure your hips are completely supported so that your “lake” can be horizontal.
Benefits of Legs Up the Wall Pose
Practicing Viparita Karani is wonderful for stress reduction and rejuvenating internal energy. It can soothe headaches and lower back pain. Practicing Viparita Karani can help support blood flow. The yoga posture also gently stretches the hamstrings, stretches the back of the neck and promotes chest expansion. Stretching the legs up the wall can help soothe swollen ankles and feet, and can also be helpful in managing varicose veins.
Viparita Karani is a great way to end your yoga practice, end your day, or make a smooth transition to bedtime. By calming the nervous system, the asana can aid digestion and calm anxiety. Practice the restorative yoga pose for 10 minutes or more an hour or so before bedtime to facilitate deeper sleep.
Basic Legs Up the Wall Pose
To get started, you’ll need up to three firm blankets (wool or cotton are best) or a yoga bolster and one firm blanket. It’s possible to practice with just one firm blanket if that’s what you have on hand. You may also want to use a strap and an eye pillow.
- Fold two of your blankets into a bolster size (10 to 12 inches wide and about 2 feet long), and stack one on top of the other. Alternately, use a standard-sized (flat) yoga bolster.
- Place your stack of blankets or your bolster parallel to, and four to six inches from the wall.
- Fold your other blanket to the same size and place it perpendicular to the other two blankets or yoga bolster, forming a “T” shape.
- Sit on the right end of your stacked blankets so that your left side is touching the wall.
- Tuck your knees in toward your torso and carefully roll to the left toward the center of your stack so that you end up on your back with your legs extending up the wall and the tops of your shoulders and back of your head resting on the third blanket. Your buttocks will hang slightly off the blanket toward the wall. Adjust your position so that the perpendicular blanket is centered under your shoulders and head.
- You might enjoy placing a strap around your thighs to prevent your legs from splaying apart. Use an eye bag if you have one.
- Make sure the oval area from the bottom of your sternum to pubic bones is horizontal. If you feel your body weight spilling into your shoulders and neck, move your hips closer to the wall. You may need to come out of the yoga pose, move your prop setup a few more inches away from the wall and then move back into the asana so that your sacroiliac joint is completely supported and the bottom of your buttocks is off the yoga bolster.
- Let go of resistance to gravity. Breathe naturally and let your consciousness expand throughout your entire body. Let thoughts come and go. Relax and let go of control.
- Comfort is paramount. Pain or discomfort can agitate the body/mind and will diminish the effects of the yoga pose. If your back is uncomfortable, try lying flat on the floor with no blankets to elevate your hips, and extend your legs up the wall.
- You can stay in the yoga posture as little or as long as you like—5 to 20 minutes or more. Sometimes it can be helpful to breathe deeply for the first minute or so and then let the body breathe itself, with no effort.
- When you are ready to leave the asana, bend your knees and slide your feet down the wall. Roll onto either side and pause there before gently pushing up to a seated position.
- It’s important to leave Viparita Karani with care and mindfulness, to preserve the calm energy you’ve generated by practicing the yoga pose.