viparita = turned around, reversed, inverted
karani = doing, making, action
Viparita Karani = “Legs Up the Wall Pose”
During my month long trip to India last year, I found the long days of travel and Indian diet caused my ankles and legs to swell. I felt stiff and ached from Karma Yoga (cleaning, cooking preparing gifts for the local villages), and a full asana practice just wasn’t possible. I began doing some sun salutations and forward folds but they just weren’t doing the trick. Then I remembered what I tell my students when they have swelling, aches, pains mental fatigue and pretty much anything else that ailes them: Spend 5-15 minutes deep breathing in Viparita Karani (Leg up the Wall) – it’s like magic cures what ever is ailing you. Taking my own advice daily I would lay in my bed at the Ashram with my legs up the wall. I felt refreshed and any stiffness and swelling had washed away.
During these busy summer months of travel, try this if you are in need of feeling refreshed or have low back pain and/or leg stiffness and pain.
- Lay a towel or a yoga mat on the floor against a wall. If you have a bolster or a pillow, place the pillow against the wall on the mat or towel.
- Sit with your hip next to the wall, swing your legs up and recline on your back.
- Close your eyes. If you have an eye pillow, place it over your eye lids and mentally say to yourself, “I am practicing Viparita Karani. I am allowing myself to relax and restore. When I get up I will feel refreshed, happy and healthy.”
- Start to concentrate on your breath. Breathe in through your nose, let the belly rise and then gently push the air out through your mouth for 5 cycles.
- Close the mouth on your sixth inhalation and begin Ujjiaya pranayama ( Victorious Breath). Inhale through your nose, let the tip of your tongue touch the roof of your mouth, making the sound Haaa, then exhale through your nose, making the sound Haaa. Continue this in a balanced rhythm during your 5 – 15 minutes of legs up the wall.
- When your practice is complete, bend the knees in towards your chest, roll off to your right side, sit up crossing the legs in Sukasana (easy pose) or Lotus Pose. Push your hands together at your heart center, Inhale deeply and exhale out your mouth … and with a big big smile lift your gaze and say Namaste.
Note: If your legs start to become numb simply end your practice early.
“Faith is much deeper than thought. It is an expression of the inner spirit.”