Yoga 101: Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
Finding time to let the body rejuvenate and relax, with legs up the wall.
Navigating traffic along I-275’s malfunction junction, recovering from storm damage from a tropical storm, shuttling kids back and forth to summer camp, and just working outside can be stressful.
Trying to keep calm and cool through the long summer months in Tampa Bay can be challenging to say the least.
We also spend a lot of time in cold air-conditioning, sitting upright with knees bent and hips in a neutral position at our jobs, at restaurants, at sporting events, and at the movies allowing our circulation to decrease.
Yoga can help relieve circulatory problems and release excess stress.
Lying down on the earth in savasana, yogic breathing and legs up the wall posture are some of the simplistic ways to add yoga to a busy stressful life.
Traditional yoga classes will contain various types of postures, like standing postures, seated postures, twists, backbends and inversions. Inversions can be stimulating and/or calming.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of legs up the wall posture (Viparita Karani). Legs up the wall posture is a mild inversion that uses the foundation of the earth and stability of the wall to prop your body toward a 90 degree angle.
When you invert the body up the wall it has the potential to regulate your circulation and blood flow, reduce swollen ankles, relieve tired feet, lengthen the back of legs, neck and spine, calm anxieties, and calm the mind.
Viparita Karani is mentioned in the ancient text, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which identified the posture as restoring youth and vitality.
To receive the full benefits of the posture, it is typically held 3-5 minutes with an emphasis on surrender and letting go for tension.
Viparita Karani also can be practiced with several variations that will increase the flexibility in your legs and hips. We will cover bringing your legs up the wall, separating your feet apart and binding or crossing your feet variations.
As with all postures, please check with your physician before you begin any new form of exercise. For example, anyone with glaucoma or advanced heart disease may want to avoid this posture.
Now let’s take this body, mind and breath to the wall and try it out.
1. Find a space in your home where you know you will not be disturbed for at least 10 minutes. You’ll also need a clear space around your mat and surrounding the wall.
2. Set the mood. Play some quiet music or adjust the lighting taking a moment to create a calm and pleasing environment.
3. Grab and read your instructions. Once you are upside down against the wall you are going to want to stay for a while so prepare ahead of time.
4. Move into the posture by sitting sideways with one hip against or near the wall. This is one of the reasons you need space around you.
5. Swing your legs up the wall as you bring your torso and head down to the floor.
6. Make sure your sits bones lightly touch the wall behind them.
7. Let your arms rest comfortably. Either , hands on the belly, to the side of the body or above the head.
8. Rest here for 3-5 minutes.
Try a couple of variations of this posture.
1. Butterfly posture, bringing the soles of the feet together, letting the knees fall out to the side. Stay here for a few breath. Just like in the seated version you wasn’t to release tension and tightness in the hips, so use the breath to do this.
2. Wide legged posture, making a v-shape with the legs. As you legs press into the wall, allow your hips to relax. You can use the hands on each side of thighs or knees to additionally hole the legs up to release some of the tension you may feel.
Hold each of these variations for at least 1-2 minutes.
Enjoy this one, Tampa Bay, it’s a gift to your body, mind and spirit! Have a great week!