“There’s a general consensus among modern yogis that Viparita Karani or Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose may have the power to cure whatever ails you.” That is how Yoga Journal describes Legs-Up-the-Wall.
The list of things this pose is thought to benefit is long. It includes:
•High and low blood pressure
•Premenstrual syndrome, and lastly,
It’s incredible impact for minimal impact, I think. I love Legs-Up-the-Wall. It’s not named very creatively if I’m totally honest, but this pose always feels so good to me, right before happy baby, and right before savasana.
This pose seems really simple and self-explanatory, and in a way, it is. But as with all yoga, it should be done with great intention and purpose in order to maximize benefits and minimize risk of injury.
I’ll give instructions here for a restorative, passive version of this pose, pictured here:
For your support you’ll need one or two thickly folded blankets or a firm round bolster. You’ll also need to rest your legs vertically on a wall or other upright support, but please know that this pose can be practiced without props and away from the wall.
Before performing Legs-Up-the-Wall, make a determination about the height of your support and the distance you’ll need to place it from the wall. If you’re more stiff, your support should be lower to the ground and placed farther from the wall. Likewise, if you’re more flexible, your support should be higher and closer to the wall. Your distance from the wall also depends on your height: if you’re shorter, move closer to the wall. And if you’re taller, move farther from the wall. Experiment and play with the position of your support until you find the placement for you and your body.
Sit sideways on one side of your support, with your side against the wall Exhale and, with one smooth movement, swing your legs up onto the wall, and lower your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. The first few times you do this, you may slide off the support and your bum may land on the floor. That’s okay! Don’t get discouraged! Try lowering the support and/or moving it slightly further off the wall until you’re more comfortable with this movement, then scoot closer to the wall.
Your “sits” bones don’t need to be right against the wall, but they should be leaning into the space between the support and the wall. Check that the front of your torso gently arches. If the it seems flat, then you’ve probably slipped a bit off the support. Bend your knees, plant your feet into the wall, and lift your hips off the support. Then tuck the support a little higher up under yourself, and lower yourself onto the support again.
Lift and release the base of your skull away from the back of your neck and soften your throat. This is more about allowing your sternum lift toward the chin than it is about bringing your chin to your chest. Roll a small towel to place under your neck if the cervical spine feels flat. Open your shoulder blades away from the spine and release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms up, like you would in savasana.
Keep your legs only firm enough to hold them in place vertically. Release your belly and the heads of your thigh bones. Soften your eyes and turn them down to look into your heart. Remain here for 5-15 minutes.
Remove your supports before rolling onto your side to exit Legs-Up-the-Wall. Stay on your side for a few breaths, and come up to sitting with an exhalation.
Many teachers believe that Viparita Karani is an inversion, and as such should be avoided during menstruation. However, others recommend the pose even during menstruation as it is believed to relieve menstrual cramps. As with any inversion, this pose should be avoided if you have serious eye problems, such as glaucoma. With serious neck or back problems, perform this pose with the supervision of an experienced teacher. If your feet begin to tingle during this pose, bend your knees, touch your soles together, and slide the outer edges of your feet down the wall, bringing your heels close to your pelvis, similar to bound angle pose, pictured here: