This really is as simple as it sounds; put your legs up a wall in this valuable Restorative Yoga pose to feel more relaxed, calm, grounded and rejuvenated.
Commonly reported benefits of this Restorative Yoga pose include: calming anxiety and relieving stress; relieving tiredness in the legs; refreshing the brain and heart; and improving circulation and releasing tight hamstrings when done regularly. This pose is even thought to be helpful for relieving varicose veins. Practise it before bed for an easier transition into sleep.
Viparita Karani is one of my favourite Restorative Yoga poses and always leaves me feeling well-rested and relaxed. Practising it regularly has also dramatically improved my circulation. I was one of those people who get blue fingernails and toenails, even in summer! Now my circulation works happily, and my previous tendency toward low blood pressure has also balanced to normal.
It’s also a big favourite during the Restorative Yoga sessions at our Yoga Nurture Weekends, and much loved by Yoga Nurture private clients; I really enjoy personally tailoring this pose for each individual.
As always, there are different versions and adaptations of this pose to suit every body.
You don’t need to be close to the wall with your legs so it doesn’t matter if your hamstrings are feeling a bit tight. Just choose your distance so that you can comfortably lean your heels into the wall, without having to use much energy to stop your legs from sliding down. For most people, this will mean there’s a gap between their bottoms and the wall. You shouldn’t feel a strain in your knees, or feel that you’re battling with your hamstrings. This pose needs to feel comfortable.
It’s important that your forehead is level with your chin, so if you have some tightness in the back of your neck, you may need a thin blanket behind your head. Then, the gaze of your eyes will naturally drop downward.
In this pose we normally place a Yoga bolster under the top of the sacrum. The amount of height you have beneath your sacrum and lower back will determine the intensity of the inversion. With more lift there will be more blood flow from the legs into the body and the effects on your internal organs, including your brain deepens. In a normally healthy individual this is wonderful.and has a deeply nurturing and relaxing effect on the nervous system. However, there are some contraindications for any inversion. If you have high blood pressure, you can practise this pose with your calves in a chair seat and with your bottom flat on the floor so that the inversion is less intense but still gives you many of the same benefits; resting the legs, relaxing the back muscles and restoring energy. (See the drawing at the bottom of the page). Be vigilant for any feeling of discomfort in your head or behind your eyes, and come out if you feel anything like that. If you have high blood pressure, hypertension, or glaucoma, it’s definitely best to have these Restorative Yoga poses adapted to suit you under the guidance of an experienced teacher.
If you find that your lower back is uncomfortable for any reason, you can try adjusting the position of the support beneath it until it feels just right, or start with a low support and slowly work your way up to a higher one.
For maximum benefit, close your eyes or use an eye pillow, and quietly observe your natural way of breathing, allowing your exhalations to slow down if that happens naturally. Stay for 10 minutes to feel wonderfully rested and refreshed, or come out earlier at first if your feet tingle and build up the duration slowly.
When coming out of the pose, make sure you don’t sit up straight away and jolt yourself out of all those benefits of the pose. Instead, wriggle onto your side into a comfortable position and stay for several breaths, slowly opening your eyes and then lifting your head slowly.
As with all Restorative Yoga, if you do this pose regularly, not only will it become more and more comfortable, you’ll also strengthen the relaxation response that comes with the pose.
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