Benefits and Uses
This restorative yoga pose is a modification of what is known in yoga as an ‘inversion,’ or upside-down pose where your heart is above your head. There are many different inversions with varying degrees of intensity that range from headstands to downward facing dog. Legs up the wall pose (or Viparita Karani) is a wonderful modification of a more intense inversion, that will allow you to receive the benefits of the inversion without putting strain on the rest of your body and baby. The pose is also excellent for fertility and some suggest trying the pose after intercourse. Note that after week 36, inversions are not advisable as the baby is moving into the birth position and this may be disruptive.
Benefits of an inversion are seemingly countless and are thought to help blood circulation in your legs (especially great for pregnant women bearing extra weight), as well as lymph circulation (which is necessary for immune function and relies on exercise for movement within the body). Inversions are also thought to help thyroid function, counter insomnia, relieve back pain, improve posture, naturally adjust the spine, improve digestion, and much more!
Place your mat or a blanket against a wall and have another blanket nearby. Come to sit on your mat at the wall with the side of your hip close up against it. Begin to rotate your legs up the wall as your back moves toward the floor. This may be a bit difficult to maneuver for some, so feel free to come into the position any way that is comfortable for you. Let your legs float up the wall (it shouldn’t require strength or force) and let them spread apart from one another. Some people find that they like to keep a slight bend in their knees, especially if they have tight hamstrings, and this is fine.
Your body temperature will probably drop somewhat in this position so use the extra blanket to cover your legs at the wall if you feel cool. Let your arms fall to your sides with your palms face up. Stay here for five minutes or so.
- Modifications: After week 36 this pose should be avoided so as to not interfere with the natural movement of your baby’s preparation for birth. After week 20 it is not advisable to stay in the position for too long in order to keep pressure off the vena cava, though five minutes should not be a problem. Slowly come out of the pose if you begin to feel lightheaded or uncomfortable at any point. For women trying to conceive, you may want to change the elevation of your pelvis by placing an additional folded blanket under your hips.
- Release: To come out of the pose begin to wiggle your toes and hands to wake up the body. Slowly lower your legs by bending at your knees and letting your feet slide down the wall. Let your knees fall gently towards your chest (or your belly if you are pregnant). Roll onto either side relaxing in the fetal position for a few integrating moments. Use your arms to push you up to seated with your head being the last to come up.