Legs-up-the-Wall / Viparita Karani
It is not the load that breaks you down. It is the way you carry it. ~Lou Holtz
Legs-up-the-wall is my very favorite pose – so easy and so profound. The beauty of this pose starts with the sanskrit name translated into “making action by turning things around”. The list of ailments of the mind and body that are eased by this pose are endless and yet there is no effort, no prerequisite pose and very few contraindications – you simply find a way to turn yourself upside-down and find the flow. It is a paradigm-shift.
Do you have a wall? Then you have all that you need to do the pose and experience the benefits. If you have some pillows or a bolster you can further benefit by inverting with the hips above the heart. Sometimes I do this in bed just before I go to sleep by simply turning around and putting my legs up the headboard.
To perform with a wall, here are the steps:
Sit with your hip against a wall and your legs stretched out parallel to the wall
Gently roll onto your back so that your legs extend up the wall
Check to see that you are still able to arch and flatten your back; If not or if you find the your lower back is flattened to the floor, simply press your feet into the wall and push yourself away from the wall slightly until you can find the freedom in your pelvis. There is no need for your legs to be totally straight but they should be supported, relaxed and slightly rotated inward.
Keep your back slightly arched and the creases of your hips soft creating a “bowl” in your pelvis. If you have a support, press your feet into the wall and position the bolster, rolled towel or mat under your hips just above the tailbone. Make sure that your sit bones and tailbone “spill” over the support and your groins are deep and soft.
Swallow, allow your throat and jaw to be soft. Make sure that your chin does not collapse into the throat and chest but remains long and arched. If you have a stiff neck, shoulders and upper back it might help to lie on a folded blanket or towel between the shoulders and lower ribs so that the neck can fall off this support and arch naturally and the shoulders will feel grounded.
Remain in the pose for 5-15 minutes.
Check in with yourself. What weights are you carrying? What loads can you relinquish, deligate or share? While in the pose it is helpful to surrender the mind to the physical sensations. Imagine the pelvis is a strong basin to collect water as it flows down the legs like a waterfall. From here small rivulets can run to and from the mind and the back of the head with the breath.
Contraindications: Glaucoma or other pressures of the head and eyes.
Precaution: Do not lift hips higher than heart during menstruation.