VIPARITA KARANI – LEGS UP THE WALL
by Nina Semczuk
Most of us don’t have time to practice a restorative yoga sequence to wind down before bed, as much as we know how it’d help us relax and fall asleep faster. While the benefits are many — slower heart rate, the rest and digest side of the nervous system flipped, an easier time falling asleep, to name a few — it’s not something many of us work into a daily routine. Luckily, there is one pose that gives you almost all of the benefits of a full practice, that can be practiced virtually anywhere, by anyone. Best of all, it’s simple. Many yoga teachers use this pose after traveling to restore calm. Others use this as a transition to signal to their bodies; it’s time for sleep, not movement. The multipurpose posture is viparita karani, or, legs up the wall posture.
The pose, touted for benefits such as increased circulation and relief from swollen feet, is simple to set up. Find a spot along a wall that will fit your hips and legs. Scoot the side of your hip as close as you can to the wall and then lie on your back and bring your legs flat on the wall. Your heels will rest on the wall; relax your toes. Inch your seat until it is pressed gently against the wall with your legs straight up. If you have a block, bolster, or sturdy pillow, you can slide that under your hips to add elevation, but it’s not necessary unless you feel strain in your lower back. If you feel uncomfortable tightness in your hamstrings or your legs slide too much, you may push your seat away from the wall and rest your legs at a forty-five-degree angle instead. If that doesn’t help, bend your knees outward, you may rest your legs in more of a diamond shape against the wall as an alternative. Stay in the posture for about five to ten minutes; longer is fine if you’re not feeling the strain, but shorter will still be beneficial. When you have finished, slowly let your legs come into your chest and roll to one side. Take a child’s pose (legs bent and folded underneath you, forehead to the ground, arms stretched in front or alongside your body) if you want a final pose before getting up from the floor.
Another option is to do a version of this posture in bed. If you find yourself tossing and turning or your mind spinning, as long as there’s a wall on one side of the bed, you can prop your legs up it, with a pillow under your seat, and let the blood and tension drain from your legs. Breathe into your abdomen and feel your belly expand on your inhale and deflate on your exhale.
Give viparita karani a try. It’s a fun, easy option whenever you feel like you need a bit of calm, or when you can’t fall asleep.