Most yoga teachers agree: Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose is the panacea of yoga asanas. Its full name in Sanskrit is Dvi Pada Viparita Karani, describing how both of your feet are up against the wall. Many call it Viparita Karani for short.
(Pronounced as "dwee PAH-duh vee-pah-REE-tah kah-rah-NEE")
While the Sanskrit words viparita karani can mean different things, here they symbolize how you create an "inverted lake" by reversing most of the blood flow in your body so that it circulates more around your vital organs, rejuvenating you.
Please note that the full version of Dvi Pada Viparita Karani looks like a variation of Shoulder Stand, in which you support your sacrum on your palms. However, for most people, that is an advanced posture that you should not attempt until you have ample strength in your back, hips and arms.
The version of Dvi Pada Viparita Karani described here is the restorative variation that requires a bolster, block, several yoga blankets and a wall.
Spread out your yoga mat so that one short edge of the mat meets the wall. Take a yoga block and brace it against the wall so that the side of the block with the most surface area presses against the wall. Now brace a bolster in front of the block. The bolster should be about the same height as the block, or you can use 2-3 folded yoga blankets as long as they are level with the block. If you are six feet tall or taller, then you can put two yoga blocks against the wall first so that your support base will stick out further from the wall.
Now sit down on the ground right next to the support you have made. Turn sideways, bend your knees and lie down on your side so that your sitting bones are touching the wall. Scoot your torso closer to the wall to achieve this positioning. You should pull in your bent knees almost to your chest to help you get into this position; otherwise, your legs will get in the way.
Then as you exhale, twist to the side and roll up onto your support with your lower back resting on top of the blankets or bolster. Extend your legs straight up against the wall at the same time. If you have done it right, then your sitting bones should still be in contact with the wall, or as close to it as possible. Your chest will lie expanded over the edge of your support, and your shoulders, neck and head will rest on your mat.
Allow your torso to arch naturally over the support. Tuck in your shoulder blades underneath you to help support this arch. You can gently walk your shoulders slightly closer to the support if you feel yourself sliding down a little. Let your arms lie on the mat out to your sides at about a 45-degree angle away from your body. Your palms should face upward.
Relax your throat muscles. Keep your head in a neutral position without trying to bring your chin near the sternum. Let your sternum lift and expand to come closer to your chin instead.
While your legs should stay straight, you do not have to keep them active. Allow them to rest in position. As long as your legs remain touching each other against the wall, that is all you need. Do not point your toes. Do gently extend your legs up through your heels instead.
Let your body sink down into the support underneath your pelvis. Close your eyes.
To get the full benefits of this pose, it is best to stay here for at least 5 minutes. Then you can increase the duration up to 15 minutes or as long as it takes before you get a tingling sensation in your feet. To come out, slide backward off of the support slowly. Then roll onto your right side with knees bent and rest there for a few breaths. Exhale when you slowly sit up, rolling to the side with your head coming up last.
Dvi Pada Viparita Karani
If you have any difficulties holding your legs up against the wall, then use a yoga belt. Place the belt around your thighs just above your knees and tighten it enough so that your legs stay together. You can put the belt around your thighs loosely before you come into the pose. Then do not tighten the strap and set it in place until your legs are up against the wall.
Modern yoga teachers often say about Viparita Karani that even if you do no other yoga pose, you should do this one. It gives as many restorative benefits as about half of all yoga poses. It is one of the safest inversions to perform that deeply nourishes all the organs in your body. That is especially why they often recommend this pose for those who are sick.
Viparita Karani often helps give relief for conditions such as:
To lengthen your inner thighs and groins as well, spread your legs apart against the wall so that your legs take the shape of a "V." Gravity will help you gently open your hips in this position. Then if you don't have any knee problems, go ahead and pull your feet together into Baddha Konasana from this posture so that the soles of your feet press into each other. To come out, extend your legs straight up against the wall first and then slowly slide back down off of your back support.
Ask a partner to help you relax further in the pose. Have them place a sandbag or folded yoga blanket on top of your feet. Your heels should remain against the wall, and the soles of your feet face the ceiling. As the slight weight of the sandbag or blanket rests on the soles of your feet, it helps relax and realign them while also releasing your lower back. Then ask your partner to place a folded yoga blanket on your abdomen as well. As you breathe, focus on slightly raising the blanket on your abdomen up on your inhalations. On exhalations, the blanket should sink slightly down. Finally, your partner can put a sandbag over your eyes to help you concentrate more on your breathing and focus inward.
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