In a yoga class I was teaching at one of our client’s offices last week, I realized something looked different. Typically there are screens pulled down in this room because it is a large conference room. That day there were some nice big sections of unencumbered walls. Ahhhh! You know you are a geeky yoga teacher when you get excited about an unencumbered wall. What I had planned flew out the window. The invitation to end the practice with Elevated Legs-Up-the-Wall would not be missed.
This is a pose that can work for several different purposes. First, let’s explore what it is. The title is accurate in its description. You lie on the floor, very close to a wall with your legs supported by the wall. It’s that simple. With the legs above the hips, the flow of blood gets a new experience. It’s perfect for relaxation and leg fatigue if you do a lot of standing. In yoga, this is called an inversion because what is usually down is now up. Your legs can be straight up or in a nice big v shape, or even with bent knees if that feels better for your hamstrings.
You can also just lie on the floor, on a mat or prop your hips or low back up on a blanket or a rolled up yoga mat or a pillow or couch cushion. As Adriene says “find what feels good.”
So how can you slip this sliver of goodness pose into your life? A few ways. It can be used instead of Shavasana, the pose at the end of most yoga practices where you lie in stillness on your back. It also is a nice stand alone pose for the end of your day or a great mini-pause during your day to reconnect with your breath and energy. For the effort to get into the pose, enjoy it for at least 5 minutes before you slowly come out of it. In a restorative yoga class, it may be a pose you settle into for even longer, 15 to 20 minutes.
I also use it when things feel stuck and I need a new point of view. It seems to help reorient my thinking. In Judith Lasater’s 30 Essential Yoga Poses she says ” Getting upside down every day helps me see things right side up. Perhaps this is the definition of perspective.”
There is one other variation if you don’t have a full wall or your hamstrings don’t like the full extension of straight legs up the wall. You set up in the same way, lying on the floor, but instead of a wall, you use a chair to support your legs. Your knees will be bent in this variation and can be supported by your couch or a nice beach chair.
One more sweet thing about this pose is that is called Viparita Karini (vaa-pree-taa kaa-ree-knee). The fun is in saying it out loud. I’m learning Spanish and like Sanskrit at first, these new sounds feel unfamiliar in my mouth. Am I saying it correctly? Then I relax and savor these new flavors in my mouth as another delight of this pose.