Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall) is said by many to be THE most therapeutic yoga posture of them all. Donna Farhi calls it "The Great Rejuvenator", and says "If you have time for no other practice, I recommend this one." All you really need for this puppy is your beautiful self and some wall space. If you've got rrrrrrrreally tight hamstrings, you may want to have a chair handy. If you'd like to use your mat for cushion, great, if you don't have a mat that's fine too. I prefer to practice any pose I possibly can without a mat because I feel like it gives me a deeper connection to the surface that I am practicing on, which is representative of the earth. Also, for this particular posture practicing without a mat makes coming out of the pose much, MUCH easier.
To come into the posture, sit with your right side flush against the wall, knees bent and curled into your chest, soles of the feet on the floor. Wiggle yourself as close to the wall as you can and then place your left palm in front of you and your right palm in back on the floor for stability as you come into the pose. Rotate your body toward the wall as you simultaneously extend your legs up the wall and lay your back down onto the floor. Now here is where it may be more beneficial to NOT use a sticky mat, because you want to wiggle your bum as close to the wall as is comfortable for your hamstrings and lower back. So the idea here is to comfortably have your entire spine flat on the floor. For my yogis and yoginis with tight hamstrings getting close to the wall may not be available for you at this time so you can have your bum a little bit away from the wall so your legs will be resting against the wall at a bit of an angle. If even THIS is not available to you, then you press yourself gently away from the wall, roll to your right side, press yourself up to sit and grab your chair. Drape your calves on the seat and lay back just like you did against the wall.
Ok, so now we are all comfy in whatever version of the pose that feels SUKHA, sweet, for your body. You may place your folded hands over your belly, or one on your belly and the other over your heart center, or in "cactus": arms out, palms facing up to a "T" then bent to a 90 degree angle.
Now close your eyes and hold for AT LEAST 5 minutes, 15 minutes would be ideal. It's natural for the legs to fall asleep in this pose as you're flushing out the build up of lactic acid and reversing the flow of blood. If this happens you can fold your legs in a cross legged position as if you're sitting on the wall for a moment, the extend them back up the wall after you feel the blood circulating well again. Also, remember as with all restorative postures, once you get comfortably situated, there should be NO effort, only surrender. Ahhhhhhhhh, sukha, so sweet!
To come out of the posture: Place the soles of your feet on the wall and gently press yourself away, so that you can bring the soles of your feet to rest of the floor with your knees bent. Stay here for a few moments so to allow the blood to circulate normally again. Now roll to your right side, pausing for a moment in this fetal type position, and then press yourself up to sit. You may choose to fold your palms in front of your heart, close your eyes and chant the syllable "Om" to close your practice.
The benefits of this posture are DIVINE. It's a passive inversion that relieves edema, or fluid retention in the legs and ankles. Stimulates the adrenal glands, and kidneys, as well as increasing circulation to the abdominal organs. It increases circulation to the lungs, facilitating deep breathing and relaxation response and reverses the effect of gravity on the ENTIRE body.
Namaste yogi's and yogini's!