Could there be such a thing as a super yoga pose? A pose with amazing healing and therapeutic properties? You bet.
It’s called Viparita Karani and it’s a simple as raising your legs up the wall.
What are the benefits of Legs up the Wall?
In Sanskrit, Viparita means inverted and Karani means action. So the pose is a reversal of our typical actions (physically and mentally).
Ask any yoga therapist what their number one pose for healing is and you’ll get this one.
It’s guaranteed to bring the body into a state of deep relaxation and renewal.
It is the opposite of doing. It is more like an undoing.
Undoing stress. Undoing tension. Undoing busy.
Stress and anxiety
Since Viparita Karani is an inversion, it has a calming effect on the nervous system. It affects the flow of prana and calms the fluctuations of the mind. The relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) is triggered in the body/mind as we slow down and ‘be’ in the pose.
Combine this pose with deep breathing to boost the relaxation response.
High blood pressure
The upside-down position improves circulation and returns blood to the heart with minimal effort. The gentle pressure in the throat can signal the nervous system to trigger the relaxation response which lowers blood pressure.
Since the pose calms the nervous system it stimulates the body’s relaxation response, allowing the mind to slow down. It is also useful in alleviating restless legs. Do it before bed to fall asleep faster. Do it if you wake up and can’t get back to sleep.
Lymph fluid is excreted from our cells and carries toxins away to be eliminated by the spleen. The lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump to move the fluid around the body so lymph fluid can stagnate in the lower limbs. Inverted poses improve lymphatic drainage so these toxins can be eliminated from the body.
This pose reduces compression in the abdomen and increases blood flow to the digestive organs which improve assimilation, digestion, and elimination. Digestion is interrupted when our body is stressed and since this pose calms the nervous system, the body can rest and digest.
Headaches and migraines
Since this pose improves circulation and reduces stress it can alleviate tension headaches. Migraines can be relieved by wrapping a tight bandage around the head and base of the skull. You can also practice this pose with a Cranio Cradle under the head to stimulate the pressure points in the Occipital bone at the base of the skull.
Being a restorative and rejuvenating pose, Viparita Karani can bring the body to rest. Once the body is able to properly rest and the nervous system soothed, the body can replenish its energy. This pose needs to be done daily for several weeks to improve fatigue.
This pose improves blood flow to the pelvic region, boosting fertility for men and women. It can also relieve menstrual cramps and urinary problems.
Hot flushes, anxiety, insomnia and brain fog can all be alleviated due to improved circulation and calming effects on the nervous system.
Avoid this pose if you have glaucoma or serious neck or back problems.
How to do it
There’s a bit of a knack for getting into it. Start sitting side on and shuffle your bum in close to the wall. Once your bum is right up against the wall, lie on your back and raise the legs up. You don’t have to have the legs straight or together, just elevated.
For extra comfort, bring a bolster/cushion/folded blanket under your hips to give them some height. If you want to release tension from the upper back, place a small bolster or rolled-up towel horizontally beneath the shoulder blades and recline over it.
Another restorative variation is to bring the soles of the feet together and let the knees open out like Butterfly (Baddha Konasana).
Once you’re in the pose you need to be able to relax. No watching TV, playing on your phone or reading. Close your eyes and pay attention to yourself.
Stay in the pose for at least 6 minutes and up to 30 minutes if it feels comfortable. To come out of the pose, bend the knees, draw them into the chest and roll to your side.
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