Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Exercise of the Month: Legs Up the Wall Pose

Our bodies are naturally in-tune with the seasons; during winter we need to give ourselves the opportunity to store energy like a tulip bulb, absorb nutrients like an acorn, and be less active during the day like the sun. Try Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani in Sanskrit) when you feel like you need a 20 minute nap, but only have 5 minutes or when you need a 2 hour nap, but only have 20 minutes. It is also a great way to wind down from a hectic day to give yourself more restful sleep.

The only tricky part is how to get into this. Sit next to the wall as close as you can with one side of your body touching from hip to shoulder. Swing your legs up as you turn and bring your upper body and head to the floor.

There are several variations that you can try to find the one most comfortable for you.
1) The easiest, but not necessarily the best, is to simply lie down with your hips directly on the floor and touching the wall. Use a rolled up blanket or pillow to support your neck if needed.
2) If this pulls on your hamstrings (remember the idea isn't to stretch, but to relax), then you are better off with "Legs on a Chair Pose," otherwise known as the Constructive Rest Position. It's not a coincidence that I chose that for the Exercise of the Month last December.
3) Although it's a little more work to set up and get into, the full version of Viparita Karani involves lying with the low back on a folded blanket or bolster so the hips are raised. This allows the chest and vertebrae of the low back to open more fully.
4) Rest with your arms at your sides, palms up if that is comfortable for your neck and back.
5) If you put a yoga strap or belt around your thighs, you can let go of more tension in your legs and hips. This is also a necessity for anyone with sacrum issues.
6) As shown above, a sandbag balanced on the feet provides extra grounding and relaxation. It's hard to put it there yourself though and usually requires a helping hand.

To come out of this pose, bring your knees to your chest and take a few breaths before rolling over (carefully) on to your side.

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