Asana of the month: Viparita Karani
Viparita Karani (legs-up-the-wall pose)
Viparita = inverted, reversed; Karani = doing, making
Viparita Karani is a wonderful yoga posture and a favourite of mine, one that I share with students any time of the year. This asana is particularly refreshing in the long dark months of winter. It is a nice inversion alternative to savasana pose and it’s calming for the mind and gently stretches the back of the legs, neck, and low back.
Benefits of Viparita Karani
During the winter season when mild depression can affect some
people, this asana practiced daily from 15 to 30 minutes can
bring an overall grounding sensation while balancing the nervous
system and introduces relaxation response. Tired legs and feet will
definitely feel restored after Viparita Karani.
The restorative nature of this posture gets blood flowing to parts of
the body that need it, making it good for many ailments, including
arthritis, menopause, high and low blood pressure and respiratory
Getting into the pose
To begin you’ll need two firm folded blankets or a firm bolster for support placed about 5-6 inches from an unobstructed wall. As well, eye-pillows can be used for over the eyes and forehead. If you are stiffer in the hamstrings you will want to place the props further away from the wall, no more than 10 inches. To start, sit sideways on the middle of the prop with your right side close to the wall. As you begin to exhale turn to the right and let your legs move up the wall as you lower your torso and shoulders to the floor, looking up to the ceiling. Keeping your pelvis centred on the prop and comfortable for the lumbar, keep your legs relaxed and settled against the wall. Let your arms rest on the floor slightly lower than your shoulders or resting overhead on the floor. Your head should be positioned so that your forehead is slightly higher than your chin. For additional comfort use a small rolled towel for under your neck (without letting the head tip back) while following the breath slowly. Find the quietness of your belly and the spaciousness around your heart as well as the sensation of feeling held. Other props that you can use are a heavy blanket for covering the torso or a sand bag for the soles of the feet.
Coming out of the pose
When ready to move out of the pose, slide away from the wall coming off of the prop, and rolling onto your side. Take a few soft slow breaths before lifting up while exhaling.
Variations on the pose
Here are some variations to make this asana your own. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together (like baddha konasana) with outer feet against the wall. As well, try elevating the lower legs onto a chair with a foam block under your hips and a thick blanket under your calves. Alternatively, use what you have to support the lower legs horizontally and the feet touching the wall and a blanket or sand bag on the legs.
This is my favourite winter asana to help restore and strengthen mind body and breath. Include Viparita Karani in your personal yoga practice.
About the instructor
Peter Ashok Baragon graduated from SSCY’s Yoga Teacher Training ten years ago and has been teaching in Vancouver and West Vancouver ever since. He enjoys teaching at community based centres for the variety of participants and the opportunity to offer different styles throughout the week. Rooted in classical ashtanga yoga and hatha yoga, he also teaches yin, restorative, chair-yoga for seniors and power flow vinyasa. Teaching for him flows from a place of love, compassion and gratitude.