Holidays got you stressed out and completely exhausted??
What if I told you that I had something that would soothe your tired legs, decrease your anxiety, lower your blood pressure, and relieve that mild backache? Wait, there’s more; this could also lift your mild depression, reduce those varicose veins, curb your insomnia and reduce swelling in your poor tired ankles! Hold on, there’s more; it’ll also work wonders on your lymphatic system and is great for chronic fatigue syndrome.
How much is this wonder drug, you ask? Nada! Zip! Zilch!! AND, you won’t have to stand in line for a prescription to be filled, nor will you have to fill out any dreaded insurance paperwork. Did I mention it’s free? Happy Holidays…!
It’s called simply, “Legs-up-the-wall-pose” (Viparita Karani in Sanskrit) and it is so easy, indeed, you’ve probably done it many times as a child.
Sit on the floor with your right shoulder and hip touching the wall. Lean over onto your left forearm and inch your bum even closer to the wall so there’s still contact there. Now, gently roll down onto your left shoulder and simultaneously swing your legs up the wall so that you are lying on your back with your legs… you got it – up the wall.
There are so many reasons to love this pose; its ease, simplicity, and the fact that any body type can do it. There is nothing physically difficult, demanding or overwhelming about being in this position. And for such a simple movement, this position has extraordinary benefits. Some teachers refer to this pose as ‘Instant Calm’. Some refer to it as ‘Inverted Lake Pose ‘due to the way the blood pools into the pelvic and abdominal regions; I have a teacher in Santa Fe who referred to it as ‘The Great Rejuvenator’.
I am a huge fan of Viparita Karani because its effects on our lymphatic system are enormous. The lymphatic system is complex; a network of capillaries, vessels, glands, and nodes that constitute a major portion of our immune system. Since it is that time of year when the immune system is often tapped, there is no better time to become acquainted with getting your legs up the wall.
Once you’ve gotten yourself comfortable with this position, here’s another suggestion to try (unless you have glaucoma or are struggling with any major back or neck issues, then stick with the previous variation). At your side you’ll need a firm blanket folded into a narrow rectangle – about 8” wide by 4”deep – or a bolster if you have one. Assume the legs-up-the-wall position, then bend your knees, press your feet into the wall and lift your hips up high enough to slide the blanket/bolster underneath your bum. Your butt cheeks don’t need to touch the wall, but they should drip over the edge of the blanket towards the wall. In this manner, ‘Legs-up-the-wall-pose’ becomes an inversion, meaning the head is below the heart. This variation of the pose is widely known for its thorough effects of draining the lymph and giving the heart a much needed break by reversing the flow of blood to the heart.
Pick your variation, with or without the use of the blanket or bolster, and get those legs up the wall! Now breathe. Breathe in and out through your nose. Begin to slow your exhalations down with each breath until you are breathing in for 4 counts and breathing out for 8 counts. Remain in this position for at least 10 minutes or up to 20 if you have the time. To come out of the pose, if you’re not using a blanket under your hips, simply bend your knees, press your feet into the wall and slowly roll to your right side. Relax there for a few breaths, and then push your way up to sitting on your bum. If you are using a blanket/bolster under your hips, bend the knees, press the feet into the wall and slowly push yourself straight back off the support and onto the floor. Then roll to your right side and after a few transitional breaths, round yourself up so you’re sitting on your bum.
It’s the gift-giving time of year. Don’t neglect to give yourself some TLC as well. Treat yourself to ‘Legs-up-the-wall-pose’ for 10 minutes or so on those crazy-whack shopping days and trust me, you will feel so fabulous and rejuvenated that you’ll be ready to take on 71st Street in Tulsa! Or at least another round of holiday parties!
Lisa Bracken teaches at The Yoga Barn at The Canebrake (www.TheCanebrake.com) as well as at NSU in Tahlequah. She practices Viparita Karani every Sunday afternoon after those crazy-ass brunch shifts at The Canebrake Kitchen.