Those of you who attend my classes regularly are probably going: “ Ok, Julia, which pose are you talking about?”
Indeed, you can access all these benefits (and more!) in one simple pose.
Unlike modern medical science, which targets an isolated symptom and then attempts to manage the negative side-effect aftermath, yoga and yoga therapy are intrinsically holistic in their nature. Yoga poses influence our bodies in a multitude of harmonious ways, and, as you can see, I can get quite carried away talking about them. Well, enough chit-chat!
Pose I am talking about is Viparita Karani, also called Waterfall, or Legs Up The Wall. The last couple of weeks we’ve been using different variations of Legs Up The Wall to end our group practice – I like to include this pose in all evening classes because it reduces systemic effects of stress (try it after an especially busy day when it feels like you had to run in 20 different directions all at once), and promotes restful sleep.
You will need a couple of firm blankets, a yoga strap or belt, and, of course, a wall. Other possible variations include a chair and a bolster.
Setting up: plan for 15 – 20 minutes of uninterrupted time (turn your phone off!) in a warm, softly lit room. Home spa comes to mind, doesn’t it? You’ll feel like you’ve spent a day at the spa by the time you are finished, I promise!
Place your props nearby so you can access them easily.
~Sit with your hip and shoulder close to the wall (sideways to the wall). Roll back, and simultaneously swing your legs up the wall. This may take a few tries to get right and feel comfortable.
~Once you’ve got yourself situated, evaluate how you feel. Which parts of your body fell comfortable? Which don’t?
3 most common discomfort zones are neck, low back and backs of the legs (I am, of course, generalizing – variations are a many; these 3 are the ones I most often see in class and with private clients.) This is when props come into play:
1. If it feels like your head is tipping way back, and there’s tension or compression at the base of your skull, back of the neck or upper back area, adding a blanket under your head will offer much needed support. Place a single fold blanket under your head; you may also roll up the end of the blanket to support under the base of your neck (C7 area) and tops of your shoulders, if needed.
2. For tension in the low back a single or double folded blankets are best. Position the blanket(s) under your buttocks. Check to make sure that the back of your pelvis rests in neutral position: your pubic bone is not lifted higher then your hip bones (ASIS for those of you anatomically inclined), there’s no tension around your tailbone, and your buttocks are not contracted.
Another useful variation is adding a strap around the thighs, right below the knees, to support slight internal rotation of the legs: this creates more space at the back of the pelvis. Position your legs about hip width apart, tighten the strap, and let your legs rest into the strap.
3. Finally, a couple of different variations for those of you with tight backs of the legs: you can move your legs away from the wall and bend your knees slightly (if you have a yoga bolster, place it behind your legs for added support). I also like using chair modification: instead of taking legs up the wall, bend your knees, and place your calves on the chair. Chair adaptation works particularly well for those with chronic back pain.
Staying in the pose: most important thing to remember is that this is a relaxing pose, not a stretching one. Forget the world outside; allow yourself to feel fully supported, and rest.
Coming out: spend anywhere between 10 – 20 minutes in this pose. To come out, bend your knees, roll to your side, and stay there for a few moments.
This post was written as a more in-depth introduction to Legs Up the Wall for Satori regulars, who are familiar with the feel of the pose, as well as mechanics of getting in and out of the pose. If you are new to practice, it is best to experience this and other poses with a guidance of teacher well versed in the art of propping and adjustment.