Viparita Karani is my favorite pose. I know, I know; there is something wonderful to discover in every pose. But, honestly, sometimes I just don’t feel like bending forward or back, or I am simply too tired to balance on one leg, even for a moment. But have I ever turned down an opportunity to practice Viparita Karani? Never! I’ve done this pose on hotel beds around the world, against trees on yoga retreats, and in the steam room at my gym.
Viparita Karani is often called Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose, but viparita actually means “inverted,” and karani means “in action.” We can interpret that to mean that the pose inverts the typical actions that happen in our bodies when we sit and stand. There are many benefits to inverting the actions in your body. Here are a few. When you put your legs up the wall with your pelvis elevated on a folded blanket, lymph and other fluids that can lead to swollen ankles, tired knees, and congested pelvic organs flow into the lower belly; this refreshes the legs and the reproductive area. This is healthy at any point in your reproductive life cycle.
This pose also gives blood circulation a gentle boost toward the upper body and head, which creates a pleasant rebalancing after you have been standing or sitting for a long time. If you are stressed, fatigued, or jet-lagged, this pose is especially refreshing. But its true greatness is that it teaches us experientially that positive results can come from doing less, not more. Many of us have been trained to believe we must work hard in order to reap the benefits of any particular effort, whether it is practicing yoga, being married, or running a business. And, of course, that is useful and appropriate advice at times. But Viparita Karani offers a paradigm shift in how to approach the notion of “work,” in both yoga and life. And this is the No. 1 reason I love Viparita Karani so much. The benefits of Viparita Karani derive not just from inverting an action but also from inverting the whole notion of action. When you relax with your legs up the wall, you are practicing the polar opposite of activity, which is receptivity.
- Alleviates headaches
- Boosts energy
- Soothes menstrual cramps (some yoga traditions advice against doing Viparita Karani during menstruation)
- Relieves lower-back pain
The Organizing Principle
Every yoga pose has an organizing principle and a container principle. When you apply the organizing principle, you arrange your alignment so that the energetic circuitry you set up is balanced and unobstructed. Organized alignment creates the conditions for the benefits of each particular asana to arise.
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