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Lying on your back with your legs extended up the wall, known as Viparita Karani or Legs Up the Wall by yoga practitioners, is thought to offer benefits for the body and mind. In this restorative pose, you can support your pelvis and lower back with a bolster or a couple of folded blankets, or you can do it with no props. This pose is suitable for beginners, and you can relax in the position for quite a while, even up to 20 minutes at a time.
By straightening your legs against the wall, you gently stretch your hamstrings, the muscles on the backs of your thighs. When you perform Legs Up the Wall with a bolster or blanket supporting your pelvis, you also stretch the front of your torso. You can benefit from this stretch by performing it after a leg-intensive workout such as running.
Any time you stand or sit, your body has to work hard to pump blood from your legs back to your heart. In Legs Up the Wall, your legs are higher than your heart, and gravity can help the circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid. This improved circulation can help you recover from your workouts, and it can help control blood pressure and improve the condition of varicose veins.
Mental Health Benefits
Performing this quiet, restorative pose can help calm your mind and relieve anxiety. The authors of a study published in "Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine" found that participating in yoga classes that included inverted poses was associated with a reduction in symptoms of depression. Experts at TeensHealth.org recommend Legs Up the Wall, an inverted pose, to help relieve depression.
Yoga practitioners tout a host of other benefits of performing Legs Up the Wall. These include relief from headaches, insomnia, digestive problems and backaches. Although medical researchers have not yet fully studied the benefits of Legs Up the Wall pose, experts at MayoClinic.com say yoga can help manage chronic health conditions ranging from cancer to chronic pain.
Although Legs Up the Wall is safe for most individuals -- including those who suffer from osteoporosis -- you should not perform the pose if you have glaucoma or if you take medication to control high blood pressure. Also, if you have a serious problem in your neck or spine, do not perform this pose without consulting your doctor.