Legs Up the Wall Pose (or Viparita Karani) is a restorative yoga posture that allows the mind and the body to relax, relieving stress and tension. It is one of the most approachable yoga poses as it doesn’t require much flexibility or strength. But even though it’s a passive pose, its benefits are pretty amazing. Legs Up the Wall is also an excellent, calming pose for your morning or bedtime meditations.
How To Do It
- Start by setting up a cozy space around a wall – my personal favorite is to just lie in bed with my legs up the headboard.
- Next, shimmy your hips as close to the wall as possible.
- Walk your feet up the wall until your body is in a somewhat L-shaped position.
- Make any adjustments to facilitate a more relaxing space – maybe place a pillow under your head, or let your arms rest on your belly or out to the sides.
- Focus on your breath – try elongating your breath, taking a deep, slow inhale through your nose and a deep, slow exhale through your nose.
Try to stay in Legs Up The Wall pose pose for at least 5 minutes for optimal benefits.
In a nutshell, the benefits of Legs Up The Wall pose are:
- Relaxes the mind
- Improves sleep
- Increases circulation
- Facilitates venous drainage
- Soothes swollen or cramped feet and legs
- Stretches the hamstrings and lower back
- Relieves lower back tension
- Pelvic floor relaxation
- Balances blood pressure
- Improves digestion
Furthermore, studies have shown that restorative yoga poses (specifically, Legs Up the Wall) can be beneficial for those suffering from the negative effects of:
- Fibromyalgia (e.g., chronic pain)
- Venous Disease (e.g., varicose veins)
- Menopause (e.g., hot flashes)
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Metabolic Syndrome
Here’s a more detailed description of how the benefits of this pose unfold.
Legs Up The Wall is a wonderfully relaxing pose. The semi-supine aspect of putting your legs up, combined with controlled breathing leads to a slowing down within your body. This exhibits itself in a lowered heart rate which elicits a relaxation response and, in turn, helps lower anxiety, stress and insomnia. This pose is ideal as a preparation before bedtime if you struggle with your sleep.
Another benefit is facilitation of venous drainage. Elevating the legs promotes drainage from excess fluid build-up. In addition, gravity assists circulation by facilitating the return of blood back to the heart.
Inverting the legs/feet has long been known as an effective treatment for reducing swelling and pain in the lower extremities. This can be therapeutic after flying, physical activity or from the detrimental effects of sitting/standing during the day.
Furthermore, the angle of the body in Legs Up The Wall reduces the curve of the lumbar spine, which will elongate and stretch the back muscles. The closer your hips are to the wall, the more stretch you’ll create in your hamstrings. Pressure is released from the spine in a supine position (especially on a bed or cushion), relieving the back from mild strain. The pelvic muscles naturally release and relax in this position (more so with a cushion under the pelvis) resulting in a constructive exercise for a hypertonic (tense) pelvic floor.
There are several variations to this pose that you can explore.
Thread the Needle
Thread the Needle pose against a wall is a safe and effective way to stretch the hips, particularly the piriformis muscle. Releasing tension in the hips helps to create a sense of physical ease throughout the entire body, particularly in the knees and low back, as well as mental ease and clarity.
Here’s how it works:
- Begin lying comfortably on the back. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet flat down on the floor, about hip-distance apart. Walk your heels in toward your body until you can just graze the heels with the fingertips.
- Cross your right ankle on the left thigh, just below your bent knee, keeping the right foot flexed and active so that the toes of the right foot are pointing back toward the right knee. Ensure that you keep your right foot flexed throughout the duration of the pose in order to protect the knee joint from injury.
- Bend your left knee and place your foot flat on the wall.
- Lower your left foot. Make sure your shin is parallel to the floor.
- Hold this position for up to 5 minutes, which will have you feeling a stretch in your right hip and thigh.
- Repeat on the other side.
This variation will have you feeling a stretch in your hips and inner tights.
- To do it, place the soles of your feet to touch each other with your knees pointing outwards to the left and right.
- Bend your knees and slowly move your feet toward your hips, down the wall.
- You can deepen the stretch by pressing your knees gently toward the wall.
When to avoid Legs Up The Wall pose:
- If you have concerns with stronger blood flow coming to your head.
- If you have medical conditions such as hernia, hypertension, or glaucoma.
- Some teachers suggest you do not do this pose during your menstrual cycle, especially on days with heavy flow.
- Try not to bring the body to a full 90 degree angle as this can impede circulation at the hips. Instead slide your hips a few inches from the wall and/or elevate your hips by placing a cushion under your sacrum.
- It’s possible that you feel a tingling sensation in your legs or lower back when you do Legs Up The Wall pose. Your legs might also feel like they fell asleep. In this case, shake our your legs to stimulate circulation.
Video: Legs Up The Wall Pose Relaxation & Meditation
Legs-Up-the-Wall pose is a great way to relax. Try this 10 minute video to unwind and de-stress while releasing tension in your legs and back.
This video is part of our 30-Day Meditation Challenge (click to join). A free program to find balance and focus with yoga and meditation.