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 10 – 15 minutes for optimal benefits.
Legs Up the Wall pose might just be what we all need after an intense day of work – or at any time really when there’s too much tension stored up in our body.
These are the main benefits of the Legs-Up-the-Wall pose:
- Relaxes the mind and body – Legs Up the Wall is a great way to calm your nerves and make you feel better. You’ll be able to relax deeply, release anxiety and tension, and get back into balance. It can bring the body back to its own innate capacity for rest, relaxation, and self-healing.
- Increases circulation – This pose can help with edema in the legs and feet, reversing gravity’s effects on your lower body. It also facilitates venous drainage and improves lymphatic fluid movement for people who have low blood pressure or spend a lot of time standing up during their day. Elevating the legs promotes drainage from excess fluid build-up and assists circulation by facilitating the return of blood back to the heart.
- Soothes muscle cramps – It’s one of the best ways to help drain tension and soothe swollen or cramped legs and feet. This can be therapeutic after flying, physical activity, or from the detrimental effects of sitting/standing during the day. Moreover, Legs Up the Wall can even aid in pelvic floor relaxation and provide relief to menstrual cramps and its related issues like backaches, headache and abdominal pains. 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.
- Stretches hamstrings and glutes – Legs Up the Wall pose gently stretches your hamstrings, glutes, spine, and hips while taking pressure off of your lower back. Furthermore, the angle of the body in this posture 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. It provides a gentle boost while improving your flexibility.
- Relieves lower back tension – Legs Up the Wall pose relieves pressure and tightness on the lumbar region, while also relaxing muscles in this area. Pressure is released from the spine in a supine position (especially on a bed or cushion), relieving the back from mild strain. It gently stretches the hamstrings and the back of the neck to ease back pain.
- Eases headaches and migraines – As majority of headaches are usually tension-related, Legs Up the Wall pose helps to gently stretch and relax the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back while improving circulation of blood flow to your head.
- Improves digestion – When you combine a longer hold of Legs Up the Wall with slow, rhythmic breathing, you will be tapping into your “rest and digest” nervous response. In this state, your body will be actively digesting anything you have eaten, as well as working to heal and repair your body.
- Improves sleep – 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.
- Helps quiet the mind – By fully relaxing your body and by focusing on deep breathing in Legs Up the Wall pose, you will evoke a meditative state. As you breathe, surrender and let go, you’ll find yourself slipping into peace and bliss.
- Gives you all the benefits of inversion, without the effort– Just like yoga inversion, Legs Up the Wall pose can help to increase energy levels, reverse the effects of gravity on the whole system, help balance blood pressure, and soothe pain. Though this pose requires a lot less effort, you will still be getting many of the benefits of practicing an active inversion, while also fully resting and surrendering.
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
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.
In more therapeutic variations of this posture, you may have blocks under your hips to elevate them, creating a slight inversion in your lower belly, and a strap securing your legs together so that you can fully relax and release into the pose, without having to exert effort to hold your legs up.
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 heavy flow days during your menstrual cycle
- 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.
How long should you do Legs Up The Wall Pose?
Lie flat on your back as close to a wall as possible; keep space between hips and ground for comfort. Lift both legs up towards ceiling. You can stay in this position anywhere from one to 20 minutes, or until you don’t feel comfortable anymore.
Who should not do Legs Up The Wall Pose?
Inverted poses, including Legs Up The Wall Pose, can be dangerous when practiced during your period. Furthermore, if you have certain medical conditions that may escalate symptoms (glaucoma or high blood pressure) talk to your doctor before practicing inverted poses.
Is Legs Up The Wall Pose good for weight-loss?
No, this pose does not help you lose weight or belly-fat. Legs Up The Wall Pose requires too little effort to burn any significant amount of calories.