Yoga for Resilience: Legs-up-the-Wall Pose



Are you looking for a way to recharge and renew?

Find your inner strength and resilience with Legs-up-the-Wall Pose.


I admit it! This is one of my favorite yoga poses - but it's also a challenge. If you ever feel anxious or depressed - or if you find it difficult to slow down so you can experience a few moments of stillness in your busy, run-like-crazy day, you might find that Legs-up-the-Wall Pose, or Viparita Karani, will become one of your favorites as well.


This pose is a restorative yoga posture that can help you relax and unwind. It's considered a gentle inversion and is usually practiced at the end of a yoga class, but it can be done at any time during the day when you need to unclench your body or find some clarity of mind. You'll get even more of a benefit by adding a gentle breathing practice.


One of the most unique qualities of Legs-up-the-Wall Pose is that it allows you to experience almost the exact opposite of sitting or standing, as you literally invert your typical daily postures and body position. This pose can allow you to look at issues and challenges from a new viewpoint as you see things from a completely different angle, both literally and figuratively. I find that this particular yoga pose can relax my body and mind enough that the constant buzz of "to do's" and distracted thoughts calm down enough for me to find creative ideas and solutions. It almost feels like I am un-knotting a tangle of thought in my brain. Practicing Legs-up-the-Wall gives me the opportunity to settle and unplug - which is so refreshing!


"Remember that the only work to be done in this pose is to let go of stress and tension in your body and mind..."

Try setting up a cozy and inviting space - somewhere that you won't be interrupted or distracted. The use of props - like an eye pillow, a blanket, or even a neck roll or pillow - can make the pose even more beneficial. Try folding one blanket to make a support for your hips and place it a few inches to a foot from the wall. The blanket should be under your sacrum and hips, allowing your sitting bones to move toward the floor.


With a little practice and some trial and error you'll find the most comfortable and supportive arrangement for your hips and neck. Your body does not need to be right up against the wall. If you are a little further from the wall, you'll experience better circulation at the hips and more ease in the pose itself. This pose should feel relaxing, not like a major hamstring stretch. Shift further from the wall or soften the knees if you feel too much of a pull on your hamstrings.


Here are the basics of moving into Viparita Karani:

  • Place the short side of your mat next to the wall and place your blanket on the mat. Sit with one hip near to the wall - sideways.

  • As you lean back onto your elbows, gently swing your legs up the wall while lowering your shoulders and head to the mat. Take a moment to shift, even moving the blanket, until your hips are supported and comfortable.

  • Try placing a rolled-up towel or a neck pillow under your neck for support. An eye pillow can deepen your relaxation.

  • Place the arms out to your sides with palms up while gently sliding your shoulders away from your ears. Another option is to place your hands on your belly so you can focus on the rise and fall of your abdomen as you practice calming breaths.

  • Use just enough energy to keep your legs elevated, not locked. If this is a challenge, you can use a yoga strap around your lower legs - not too tight and just below (inferior to) the knees - to hold your legs up.


Explore belly breathing or a lengthened exhalation during Legs-up-the-Wall Pose. If you are new to restorative relaxation, you might feel comfortable in the pose for 2 - 5 minutes. If you are a relaxation and restoration pro, stay in Viparita Karani up to 20 minutes.


Whenever you are tempted to tense up or if you feel your "chill" slipping away, remember that the only work to be done in this pose is to let go of stress and tension in your body and mind, and to focus on the flow and cadence of your breath. Take this precious opportunity to simply do nothing.


To come out of the pose, bend your knees and push gently away from the wall. Bring your knees toward your chest and take a moment to re-group. Roll onto your right side and take a few easy breaths. Use your left arm for support as you press up to your favorite seated position. It is valuable to take a few moments here to really feel the effects of your yoga practice. Notice how you feel in your mind and body.


Legs-up-the-Wall Pose can help with headaches, release lower back tension, boost your energy and mental clarity and decrease swelling of the feet, ankles and legs. I find relief in this pose when my legs feel restless in the evening.


Although this pose is both beneficial and safe for most people, contraindications include pregnancy, glaucoma, high blood pressure or any serious neck or spinal condition.


You can experience great rewards what you take the time to prioritize a little self-care. Soothe anxiety, reduce inflammation, kick your stress to the curb and experience more resilience as you learn to let go and recharge with Legs-up-the-Wall Pose.



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