Legs up the wall (Viparita karani) has many wonderful benefits and I have to say that it is one of my favourite poses.
This wasn’t always the case though. It took me a long time to appreciate the healing qualities of these more restorative postures. A fond reminder of this came up the other day, when I was teaching a private client of mine.
Before I set the scene, a full tutorial video on how to do the posture is waiting for you at the end of the post👇
Benefits of Legs Up The Wall: Setting The Scene
We were talking about ‘getting the most out of our movement/practice’ and she brought up the fact that she assumed that she would only get the full benefit, if she pushed herself as hard as possible. If it didn’t feel hard, in her mind she was either cheating, not doing the movement right, or it was just too easy.
I was immediately reminded of the old me as I used to think in exactly the same way. I would favour strong yoga practices, exhausting sessions in the gym and sometimes back to back classes. Boy, looking back I don’t know how or why I did that to myself.
This mentality also crept into my working life. For me, working hard and productively simply meant working long hours. If I could say to someone that I had worked 10 hours non-stop today (regardless of what I actually achieved), then that for me was the meaning of success.
Crazy don’t you think and yet many of us perhaps fall into this trap.
It took me a long time to realise this was all rubbish. In fact, the wake up call came when I started suffering from re-occurring injuries on a physical level and complete burnout and stress on a mental one.
Things had to change, so with the help of my teachers I welcomed into my life more restorative poses, like legs up the wall.
The Benefits of Legs Up The Wall
Viparita Karani teaches us that doing less can often give us so much more.
It is a mild inversion, which not only takes the body upside down but also helps us practice the complete opposite of being busy and active. It is a pose which allows you to simply do nothing (except rest and connect with yourself). I love it ❤️
Let’s look at some other benefits of legs up the wall
- Soothes stress and promotes relaxation and recuperation.
- Encourages complete rest; the heart rate can slow down as the body is inverted which helps to initiate the rest and repair state. This lowers anxiety stress effectively. You may even fall asleep in this pose.
- Because you are upside down your blood circulation gets a gently boost towards your upper body and your head, making this pose better than a cup of coffee any day.
- Elevating the legs promotes drainage from excess fluid build-up. In addition, it will help your lymph flow too which will support your immune system.
- Soothes swollen ankles, tired knees or tired achy legs as you are taking the weight completely off your feet and reversing the effects of gravity.
- Stretches the hamstrings and lower back.
- The angle of the body reduces the curve of the lumbar spine, which will elongate and stretch the back muscles.
- Relieves lower back tension.
The ongoing benefits of practising legs up the wall
After some weeks of welcoming legs up the wall into my life on a regular basis, I noticed some pretty cool changes.
The more I rested up, the harder I could push myself, physically when I wanted to, and more importantly my body felt prepared and stronger.
In terms of my work, to my surprise I got more work done working less hours. What a revelation and lightbulb moment. I guess, my brain just felt more refreshed and allowed me to be more productive.
So, I learnt that it does not pay to always be pushing yourself physically and mentally. Both the body and mind need time to rest and recuperate, otherwise we head for stress and burnout.
AND NO, before you say anything you are not being lazy!!
Going back to the conversation with my client, she felt the same. To do more restful poses, in her mind was simply being lazy and unambitious. So, it is my mission to take her on a journey to embrace the more restful poses – starting next week with legs up the wall.
For now I would love for you to enjoy the benefits of legs up the wall for yourself.
How to Do It.
A) The Get Up and Go Version: Legs Up The Wall in its Simplest Form
- First of all, find yourself a space at the wall.
- Sit sideways against the wall and then shimmy your hips close to the wall as possible.
- From here walk your feet up the wall until your body is in a L-shape position.
- Once you are up, work to get the sit bones as close to the wall as you can.
- Allow your body to relax allowing the arms to rest on your belly or lie out to the sides.
- Focus on your breath and aim to take deep inhales and slow long exhales.
- Stay in this position for at least 5 minutes. I sometimes stay for 20 if I have the time and boy do I feel amazing afterwards.
- To come out simply bend the knees towards the chest, roll over to one side (into a fetal position), rest here for a moment and then come back up to sitting.
Note: you can even do this pose on your bed with your legs resting up on the headboard
B) Boost the Benefits of Legs Up The Wall With the Use of Props A
Grab a couple of blankets, a belt and if you have one, an eye pillow
- Fold one blanket into a large square, then fold that into third creating a firm flat supportive cushion. Place the blanket cushion about 12 inches away from the wall.
- Fold the other blanket in half and place it 3 feet away from the wall. This blanket will help support your head.
- Loop the belt so that it is hip width apart and keep it close to hand so you can grab it easily.
- Now sit in front of the home-made cushion sideways on against the wall.
- Bring your back to the floor and swing the legs up as above.
- Shift the home-made cushion so that it lies directly under sacrum. This next bit is important. Place the cushion so that you can scoot the sit bones off the blanket so that they are lower than your hips. You can bend the legs, press the feet into the wall so that you can temporarily lift your hips off the floor so that you can make any adjustments. You are trying to create a small tilt (not tuck) with the pelvis. If you find that you pelvis is doing the opposite (i.e. your sit bones and tailbone are curling up towards the ceiling), try moving the pelvis further away from the wall and placing the homemade cushion further up your back..
- The other blanket is lying under your head and your neck so make any adjustments here.
- No, place the belt loop around your shins and then tighten the loop to that your legs can completely relax against the support of the belt.
- Now simply do nothing. Let your mind go and be open to whatever crops up. Let your thoughts pass you like clouds in the sky. Enjoy how it feels to do nothing, sensing how in doing nothing, your body is reawakening and rejuvenating. Stay for as long as you can – seriously – the longer the better. Try a lovely restorative breath exhaling for longer than the inhale; for instance try inhaling for 4 and then exhaling for 8.
- To come out simply bend your knees toward your chest. Roll onto your right side and rest there for several breaths. Then, press your hands into the floor and walk yourself up to sitting, letting your head come up last. Slide the belt off your legs and sit on your blanket, with your back at or near the wall. Sit quietly for a few minutes and enjoy that post ‘legs up with wall’ feeling.
‘Vaparita Karani show us that the feminine, receptive aspect of our practice can be as important as the active, or masculine element.’ Cyndi Lee
And many of us already know this right? We just choose to ignore it or feel we can’t embrace it because modern life demands so much from us. Please, I urge you to re-evaluate if this is you; don’t let the busyness or ‘do more culture’ of modern life take over. Practice this beautiful pose now and enjoy the benefits of simply ‘being.’
For a full tutorial on how to practice legs up the wall pose watch the video below: