I am not sure of it’s Sanskrit name, but I am pretty sure it’s not Viparita Karani as it’s called sometimes. Viparita Karani is rather a blanket term for all of the inverted postures. And that’s what it means, to invert the body upside-down. The English, Legs-up-the-wall is very descriptive name for a pose and so are most of the Sanskrit names, so why not accept it?
It has been my favorite pose for quite a while. This photo was taken while I was compiling yin yoga travel booklet for a client so she could continue with her daily routine on a trip across the globe. It turned out to be her favorite pose too. Photo was taken this winter when I was still working on my air pollution forecasting thesis and running the shala at the same time. So I’ll forecast you this, the benefits of legs-up-the-wall pose.
Benefits of legs-up-the-wall pose:
- Calms the mind
- Refreshes the nervous system
- Reduces anxiety
- Regulates low blood pressure
- Relieves the leg muscle tension
- Helps with edematous swelling of the feet and legs
- Soothes varicose veins
- Improves digestion
- Alleviates headaches and migraines
- Reduces premenstrual bloating
- Relieves menstrual cramps
- Relieves symptoms of menopause
- Regulates urinary problems
- Relieves sciatic and back pain
How to do it?
When you find a wall, sit right next to it with both legs parallel to it. Turn over lifting the legs up the wall, lying down on the ground. If you feel something’s not right:
- Scale check the intensity of the stretch in the back of the legs. On a scale from 1 to 10, my advice would be not to go above 7 as this would not help relieve anything but it would only add up to already existing tension and bring to a counter effect. In that case slide the pelvis away from the wall to angle the legs accordingly so you can feel a pleasant and relieving stretch at the back of the legs.
- If you locate the tension at the back of the neck and you feel it flat against the ground with the chin too close to chest, roll a small towel and place it under the cervical spine.
- If the neck tension is coming from the head dropping back with the shoulders lifted off the ground, place a support under the back of the head. The head can be supported with a towel, blanket, sand bag, pillow, block, book…
- If the legs won’t stay together and they’re sliding to the sides or down the wall, use a strap or a belt looped just above the knees for support.
If everything seems and feels to be right, you may start to give in to the pose. Disengage the feet, calves, thighs, muscles of the pelvic floor, abdominals, shoulders and arms, hands and fingers turning the palms up, relax the throat, lower jaw, muscles of the face, forehead and temples, try closing the eyes or just not gazing upward. Total release. Make it a passive pose. Avoid the sense of doing in the pose.
To make this pose a bit more therapeutic, elevate the pelvis by placing a folded blanket, bolster or a block under the hips and sacrum. This will create a slight inversion for the lower belly organs which get pressed down by the intestines during daily activities. It will improve blood circulation in the abdominal area, as well as digestion. Experiment with height of support under the hips and sacrum, but also with the distance from the wall. To avoid tucking the tailbone, you might need to walk the hips away from the wall.
Stay with the legs up the wall as long as you like. The longer, the better. If you have time, up to 20 minutes should provide a great spectrum of it’s benefits. If you spend a lot of time sitting, standing or walking, if your field work requires challenging body positions, if you’re engaged in hard physical labor of any kind, please find break time for legs up the wall. No task, especially if it’s a job, is worth depriving our bodies of therapeutic nourishments that it deserves. Try not to succumb under the heavy load of long working hours. Do not let the body pay the price. I had a privilege to do yoga with elderly people, including my mother, who spend their lifetimes working hard and the marks on their bodies are clearly visible. But as soon as they engaged in simple yoga routines, their bodies instantly returned the favor.
If there’s no wall near, which is less than likely, since there are lots of misplaced walls all around this world… find a tree, a pillar of some kind, a partner with whom you can do legs up the legs pose, anything that works.
No gods, no gurus