In my top 10 favorite poses, I hold a special place for a restorative pose called Viparita Karani, which translates directly to Reversed Doing or Legs up the Wall.
The American Chiropractic Association indicates that at any given time 3.1 million Americans are experiencing back pain. In my yoga class last night I asked how many of the attendees experience back pain. Every single hand went up in the room and these were students all under the age of 20.
We don’t always know where back pain comes from but some frequent factors include alignment problems, tight/weak muscles and stress. We sit too much as a culture and we don’t move our bodies in ways they are meant to be moved. Our hip flexors, hamstrings and psoas muscles are short, tight and weak.
The solution is to both move more, in the form of walking – taking short breaks in your day so you don’t spend 8 hours straight sitting down – and in finding ways to let tight muscles relax.
Enter Viparita Karani, classified as both an inversion and a restorative yoga pose. The pose allows muscles in the low back to relax deeply and it also stretches the hamstrings as they extend up the wall. Because the pose involves reversing your orientation in space, there are additional benefits of lowered blood pressure and boosted immunity by reversing the flow of lymph in the legs. This is also an awesome pose for people who have trouble with insomnia. 10 minutes with your legs up the wall before bed will help you fall asleep!
Here’s how to get into the pose
Sit with the side of your body touching a wall:
Swing your torso down and legs up the wall (there really is no graceful way to do this:
Once your upper half is down ont he floor and your legs are up the wall, scootch in as close as you can to try and have your hips up against the wall – if your hamstrings are really tight, you may need to have your hips away from the wall, because we want your legs straight up the wall. Have your feet about hip width apart. You can turn your palms to face up, helping to open the front of the chest:
Once you are there stay at least 5 minutes, close your eyes and just breathe as your body lets go and you relax!