It’s called Viparita Karani, but you’ll hear most people just say “legs up the wall.” It sounds a little funny and while it’s technically a type of inversion, it doesn’t take much effort and is deeply restorative.
To get into this pose, lie flat on your back (preferably on a yoga mat for the comfort of your spine and tailbone) and scooch your bum as close to a wall as possible so that your legs align straight upward. Your heels and sit bones should be resting against the wall, feeling supported. It is optional to use a folded blanket or bolster under your sacrum for an added pelvic tilt, but it’s not necessary. Don’t lock your knees—allow a soft bend.
Once you feel secure in this position, goal-post out your arms so that you take up some space but still feel relaxed. Practice deep, steady breathing for one to three minutes—intentional breath that allows you to be present but not strained or light-headed. After that, just let your body breathe naturally. Let thoughts come and go and don’t resist gravity. Your bones will naturally stack here; nothing should be forced.
Now that you’re here … wait why are you here again? Because, this pose is not only relaxing but absolutely transformative.
First, the obvious: in this pose, you gently stretch your hamstrings and elongate your neck. This relieves sore or tired muscles and is a gentle way to remind your body of proper posture and alignment. It’s amazing post-travel or during pregnancy or injury, as it reduces swelling in the ankles and lower extremities. It can even reduce the appearance of varicose veins when done regularly!
With legs up the wall you’re promoting excellent circulation to the middle and upper parts of your body. This can relax and rejuvenate the mind, quiet racing thoughts, and thus, help reduce the strain caused by overworked adrenals. This particular focus of improved circulation can also soothe digestive duress as well as alleviate menstrual cramps.
Because of this pose’s effectiveness for capillary circulation, you may also see results in your skin. If practiced consistently (that is, several times a week), you may see a reduction in the redness or dark circles under your eyes, which are often a result of broken or stressed capillaries under the thin skin.
Inversion poses, even ones as mild as legs up the wall, are nourishing and detoxifying to the adrenals and endocrine system. The discussion in this eight-week study showed that hatha yoga that includes soft inversions such as this pose has a positive effect on our vagus nerve and the baroreflex, suppressing our fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system) and promoting feelings of rest and digest (our parasympathetic side). With your posture, breath, alignment, digestion, circulation, and increased blood flow to the brain, other issues like insomnia and anxiety will begin to improve as well.
This is such an easy pose to try out that even if you never seem to have time for that post-work, at-home flow, give yourself 10-15 minutes in legs up the wall. To get out of it, bend your knees and slide your feet down the wall, rolling onto your side to gently push yourself up. Do this pre-bath or bed for a healing night of rest.