Viparita Karani

Even if you don’t think yoga is your thing or ever could be your thing, I want to challenge you to try something – one simple pose that might bring you just the health and well being (mental and physical) you need during this busy holiday season – Legs up the Wall, known formally as Viparita Karani. LutW was something I pinned a while ago because it claimed I could get two hours of sleep in twenty minutes (for seriously? yes, please! said the tired mama in me). While I still don’t know if that claim is entirely true, I was still inclined to try it, especially after it was also done during a class at my local studio. During that practice, when we were actually focusing on shoulder stands, the instructor told us all about the benefits of getting the blood flowing in the opposite direction that become possible when you do inversions such as these. She also explained that LutW is said to be beneficial for fighting colds and congestion, so it would be great to pull out and practice at the first sign of exhaustion or sinus troubles. Again, my mama self is surrounded by Littles and their germs 24/7, and cold and flu season is here, so anything to get me feeling more rested and less likely to get sick seemed like a great idea.

Obviously, I’m no yoga teacher (yet!), so if you want a professional to explain this to you (and you might want to read it even if you do take my word for you, you kind, kind soul), read this. It’s super and will help you get where you need to be with Viparita Karani. For our purposes here, I’ll tell you a little bit about my approach and the results I’m seeing from it.

I started doing this pose on a regular basis a couple weeks ago. I still haven’t fit it in daily, but on the days when I’m really dragging, I make an effort to find those 10-15 minutes to get my legs on the wall and my body refreshed. I think only once did I make it a full 20 minutes and that had to have been on a weekend when Ben was around to run herd on the herd.

Since we have hardwood floors in the majority of our main level, I take one of our thickest throw blankets and fold it up in quarters so it can support my upper body as I chill on the floor. The article linked above explains several ways to get into the pose and I take one of two approaches: I sit with one hip touching the wall (knees bent) and then rotate my body so my legs are vertical as my torso becomes horizontal on the blanket OR I get my back down first and then shimmy my way towards the wall until my sits bones reach it and my legs are straight up. Confession – I don’t bolster or prop myself the way the article says I should but I figure, work with what you’ve got, so the blanket and the wall and I make do with just each other. In other words, don’t feel like you have to have a bunch of yoga gear to give this a try!

From there I usually find that my hands fall to my belly which creates, for me, a nice grounding sensation as I relax into this. Your arms can also come out, palms up, at your sides. Easy peasy – whatever works for you. Because I still need so much (years perhaps of) practice at clearing my mind, I find it helps to turn on some calming music to help me focus and breathe and just slow down for a bit. My iTunes has exploded in activity since my return to yoga, mostly because I hear great songs at class and then have to have them for my own practice at home. The song that came from the studio to my house that I’ve been using the most for LutW is MC Yogi’s “Shanti (Peace Out)” because it is long (almost 7 minutes) and super chill; it’s even been known to (almost) drown out the sound of Angry Birds being played on the Kindle on the couch next to me while I throw my legs up the wall. Also, I know if I listen to it twice-ish, I’m good to go on time (without having to watch a clock) and can begin to work my way out of the pose.

Again, not an expert, but if you try this, take your time getting out of it. Your legs are going to feel funny shortly into it and are definitely going to need a minute to get the blood flowing down again as you bring your feet back to the floor. I like to draw my knees into my chest, hug my arms around my legs, and then rock side to side for a bit before getting up. That’s actually a great thing to do for your back anyway, so even if you don’t to LutW, give yourself a little backrub with the side-to-side roll once (or twice) a day.

In case you are a visual learner, this is what it all looks like for me. Again, the computer is there only for musical playing purposes.

Set your chill song to repeat and settle in, nice and slow with big deep breaths. If you can, focus on that breath, and if you can’t (I’m often all over the place), just keep coming back to it, as many times as you need. My back always feel better after doing this and my legs feel alive and tingly once I’m back upright and walking around the house. And I have to say, it really does help rejuvenate my head, especially if it was an early morning with the kiddos (which is always). For these benefits alone, I’m drawn to continuing this practice.

What do you think? Does this sound like something you can do? Will do? I know this is a crazy busy time of year for pretty much all of us, so maybe you’re thinking you don’t have 10-15 minutes to sit with your feet up your wall, but that might just be exactly why you need to slow down and give it a shot. See if the reverse of blood flow or position helps you feel differently about life in general or a specific problem or maybe your overall health. Plus, it’s free and (semi) painless, so how about it? Will you let me know what you think if you put your legs up the wall any time soon?

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