Viparita Karani | Legs-Up-the-Wall | Waterfall
Viparita Karani, often called Legs-Up-the-Wall pose or Waterfall pose, if taken away from the wall, translates to “inverted” (viparita), “in action” (karani). By exploring this pose physically and intellectually we can tap into a flipped perspective. As yogis we often work towards “perfecting” or “achieving” a desired outcome in our asana, a reflection of human nature to strive towards greatness and to master the tasks we set in place for ourselves.
This month, as we embrace the philosophy of Yoga Therapy, you are invited to consider how you define and evaluate your work, worth, and value, on and off your mat. In supportive poses like Viparita Karani, discover what it feels like to focus on doing less instead of more. You might also notice what it feels like when you can allow your poses to be what they are, rather than pushing yourself to go after a pose. We invite you to explore prioritizing wellness over perfection and utilize asana to reflect on how you are relating to yourself and your world.
Viparita Karani offers an ideal opportunity to relax both mind and body, especially when you combine the physical posture with slow rhythmic breathing. Physical support, muscle relaxation, and a deep, steady breath can help us to activate the “rest and digest” function of our nervous system. The “rest and digest” system promotes a sense of self-compassion, presence, and safety, while also supporting healthy digestion and sleep.
In Viparita Karani, see if you can invoke a sense of receptivity, rather than activity. With each breath, allow yourself to surrender into the support of the ground. Give yourself permission to let go of effort and fully embody the calm, safe, and supported space you have created for yourself, within yourself.
In addition to the cognitive and emotional benefits of the “rest and digest” response, Viparita Karani also offers significant physical benefits. Elevating the legs allows for lymph and other fluids to nourish swollen ankles, tired knees, and congested pelvic organs, refreshing the legs, hips, and reproductive area (for folks who menstruate, this is helpful at any point of your cycle). Practicing Viparita Karani consistently can also help manage chronic discomforts, such as arthritis, digestive issues, blood pressure, migraines, respiratory ailments, urinary disorders, varicose veins, and uterine discomfort associated with menstruation and menopause.
Practicing with the support of a wall:
- Determine the height and distance you need from the wall.
- If your hips and legs are feeling stiff, we recommend that your support prop (a folded blanket, block or bolster) should be lower and placed further from the wall.
- If you are feeling more flexible and open, you may prefer to use a higher support prop and practice closer to the wall.
- Set your support prop a few inches from the wall, sit sideways on one end of the support. Exhale and swing your legs up wall. Rest your shoulders and head on the floor.
- Your sitting bones should be “dripping” into the space between the support and the wall.
- Your torso should arch gently from pubis to the top of the shoulders. You may need to adjust your support prop or position.
- Release the base of your skull away from the back of your neck and soften your throat and jaw muscles.
- If your shoulders, upper back, or neck are feeling tight, we recommend a small rolled blanket under your neck to support your cervical spine.
- Let your shoulder blades soften into the ground and release your arms and hands by your side, palms up.
- Keep your legs firm enough to hold them vertically, and invite the weight of your belly to release into the back of your body.
- Soften your gaze or close your eyes.
- To dissolve the pose slide the support out from beneath you, allowing the body to come to the floor before turning to the side and return to your seat.
- Adding a bolster for more support.
- Using a strap, snug around the thighs, just above the knees to help hold the legs in place.
- Taking the pose without support of the wall. Using a block benea the sacrum with legs “floating” in space.