What is Legs Up the Wall Pose?

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Legs Up the Wall pose is an alternative to traditional yoga inversions like headstand and shoulder stand for someone with neck issues or just beginning a yoga practice.

In my opinion, Legs Up the Wall is the best pose to practice before Savasana, or final resting pose. But this pose also works great on its own if you don’t have time for a whole practice.

Legs Up the Wall pose, or Viparita Karani in Sanskrit, is a gentle inversion. Viparita = turned around, reversed, or inverted and Karani = doing, making or action.

Why Should I Do Legs Up the Wall Pose?

Your amazing lymphatic system is part of your immune system and responsible for clearing toxins. But, it doesn’t have any muscles to pump the lymph fluid throughout your body. This fluid gets moved around by the massaging movements of the muscles around your lymph nodes as you move your body.

So take a moment to think about your day – I’m betting that you are usually either sitting or standing pretty still. As you sit, toxins are being drawn down the body by gravity. Going upside down in an inversion helps the toxins drain back towards your heart and the lymph nodes, which clear these toxins.

Inversions can help reduce swelling in your legs, aching feet after a long day standing, and improve blood circulation as well!

More benefits you can receive from this pose are mental – calming and clearing your mind from anxiety. It can even help you flip your perspective and give you a new outlook or solution to a problem you might have.

With all the benefits of this pose, it personally brings me enough calmness to help me sleep at night. And of course, that makes for a better tomorrow!

When and How Long Do I Practice Legs Up the Wall Pose?

If you are already doing a whole yoga practice, then use this pose right before Savasana for between 5 and 20 minutes.

If you are just practicing this pose by itself, then any time of day works fine. Morning is great for anxiety about your day. Afternoon is fabulous for a little pick-me-up to avoid coffee or sugary drinks. And practicing at night time helps prepare your body for a restful sleep. Again, 5 to 20 minutes is recommended for this pose.

**Avoid this pose during menstruation, if you have serious heart problems or a severe headache. If you have vertigo, spend some extra time lying in Savasana or fetal position.**

Steps to Practice this Pose

Traditional Legs Up the Wall Pose

(This traditional style of the pose is comfortable if your hamstrings are not tight. Please see the modifications for tight hamstrings.)

~Find an open space on your wall and sit with one hip pressing up against the wall.
~Swing your legs and body around so that your torso is laying perpendicular to the wall, your buttocks are pressing against the wall, and your legs stretch up long.

Legs Up the Wall Pose

Modify for your comfort:
~Neck pain: Place a pillow or blanket under your head
~Feet sliding to the sides: Use a yoga strap around your thigh (between your knee and hip)
~Feel safe and grounded: Place a yoga sand bag across your hips
~Cold feet: Cover your feet (or whole body) with a blanket

Breathe

~Focus on your breath and feel it move through your body. Notice WHERE you feel your breath moving different parts of your body. You may feel your chest rise and fall, or even feel your breath moving your belly up and down. Lay with your arms outstretched or by your side, or even place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart.

~Stay here for 5 – 20 minutes and let all your muscles and thoughts relax.

~To come out of the pose, bring your legs back to the floor and rest in a fetal position until you feel balanced and ready to move to Savasana, or back up to a seated position.

~If your feet start tingling, slide them down the wall and see if it feels better to open your legs in a fan style or butterfly style. If they are still tingly, make your way to lying flat on your back, and stay here until you feel balanced.

Modification: Legs Up the Bolster with 2 Yoga Blocks (Helpful for tight hamstrings and a nice restorative pose)

~Place one yoga block up vertically, and the other yoga block horizontally, to look like an L shape
~Incline your yoga bolster on the blocks (give a little press to make sure it is securely in place) 
~Facing the bolster, place one foot on either side and scootch your bottom towards the bolster
~Lay down and raise your legs to rest on the bolster

Legs Up the Bolster

Modify for your comfort:
~Neck pain: Place a pillow or blanket under your head
~Feet sliding to the sides: Use a yoga strap around your thigh (between your knee and hip)
~Feel safe and grounded: Place a yoga sand bag across your hips
~Cold feet: Cover your feet (or whole body) with a blanket

~Focus on your breath and feel it move through your body. Notice WHERE you feel your breath moving different parts of your body. You may feel your chest rise and fall, or even feel your breath moving your belly up and down. Lay with your arms outstretched or by your side, or even place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart.

~Stay here for 5 – 20 minutes and let all your muscles and thoughts relax.

~To come out of the pose, bring your feet back to the floor and rest in a fetal position until you feel balanced and ready to move to Savasana, or back up to a seated position.

Modification: Legs Resting on a Chair (Helpful for REALLY tight hamstrings, releases your Psoas muscles, and also a great restorative pose)

~Set up a folding chair or you can use your couch
~Facing the chair, place one foot on either side of the chair, scootch your hips towards the chair and rest down on your back
~In any way that’s comfortable for you, bring the lower part of your legs to rest on the seat. Your ankles should line up with your knees and your knees line up over your hips in a 90 degree angle, so adjust your body or the chair

~Again, focus on your breath for 5-20 minutes

~To get out this position, bring your knees into your chest and roll over into a fetal position – staying here until you feel balanced and ready to move to Savasana or back up to a seated position

Conclusion

I find this pose extremely helpful for me in regards to calming anxiety and improving my sleep.

If you’re up for a challenge, try this pose every day for 1 week – 20 minutes a day, and I promise, you will be blown away by the results!

Please share your experiences with this pose down in the comments – I would love to hear how this challenge changed your life!

22 comments

  1. Hey, Andrea!

    Loved the article, truly insightful as well as thank you for all the instructions.
    I’ll definitely try that challenge. I want to compare the benefits of the two (meditation and this), as they did sound in part quite similar. Although the stuff that’s actually happening within your body seems to be quite different.

    I did want to ask about the breathing. Is there any specific way, how I should do this? For example, breath only through nose or inhale through nose and exhale through mouth, should the breathing be kind of prolonged or should the air be pushed out intensely? Or should I simply just breath and see what happens?

    Either thank you for the article, you might have hooked me on yoga, cheers!
    And have a Great One!
    Matiss

    1. Hi Matiss! Thank you so much for your kind words! Please let me know your results for the challenge! And yes, this pose is an excellent way to relax your body FOR your meditation – maybe even helping you to dive deeper into your meditation practice!

      As for your breathing question, generally, breathing in and out through your nose works best. If you are congested, then feel free to breathe through your mouth. Your breathing should just be nice and calm – not pushed out intensely. The longer and slower you make your breaths, the more it calms down your nervous system.

      Enjoy your yoga journey! Namaste!

  2. Wow. For years when I was a kid I used to lay in this position and find it entertaining. I never knew it was a yoga pose. As I have gotten older I have been too busy to stop and do this. I need to get back in the habit. I never knew there were benefits of doing it. I always just found it relaxing so I did it. Thank you for this great information. Maybe I can do yoga after all.

    1. Hi Maryann, Isn’t it funny how kids (and our younger selves) know that this feels good? I encourage you to make some time to try this position / yoga pose again! Let me know if you do the challenge and how it works for you!

  3. Hey Andrea,

    I haven’t done yoga but my mother has been very interested in doing it. She was in a bad car wreck and had to relearn to walk. She has been working on physical therapy for the last 3 months, though.

    I know this is a newbie question, but you mentioned it drains the toxins back to the heart. Would this help someone that has poor blood circulation? I know her blood circulation is pretty poor. But, will this help with blood flow to her legs or anything?

    1. Hi Garen, As long as your mother’s physical therapist is ok with this pose, then yes, it could definitely also help with poor blood circulation! Normally your leg muscles are tight and tense from holding up your body. As your muscles relax, the “channels” that the blood, fluid and toxins travel through, can open. It’s similar to how massage opens up these channels, but in a more gentle way!

      1. Awesome! I’m so excited to learn yoga. I want to do it myself. But do you have any ideas of guides or anything that will get you started? Sorry, I am so new to it 🙂

        1. Hi Garen! I’m so glad you’re going to give yoga a try! I actually have a beginners yoga course on Udemy. It has some lectures and 3 different practices that could get you started. If you sign up for my email list, you can receive a free coupon for it! It’s called: Gentle Yoga for Beginners Vol. 1: Moving Toward Bliss.

  4. Thank you for such a detailed and helpful guide. I hadn’t heard of the legs up the wall pose but will definitely give it a try. I’m trying to get in to yoga with my young daughter. Are there any modifications you need to make to traditional yoga poses for a child to do them safely?

  5. What a great post on yoga! After a long day of work I could use a simple yet effective exercise like legs up the wall pose. I already do yoga in my day to day routine(as I work in back pain) and yoga is definitely a go to. I like that that you added how these yoga poses are going to help reduce aches, and keep you relaxed, giving you a restful night. Practicing yoga, at night is one of the best times, I can let my body relax and not have to worry about waking up with aches and pains. Plus it helps that the toxins are out of my body. I will be referencing your article, thank you!

  6. Hello Andrea,
    Great article. As I read it, it suddenly came to me, can I let my 11-yr old daughter do this pose? She usually has problems going to sleep. I now you are not a medical doctor but just wondered if this exercise would be beneficial to her sleep and resting mode. In any event, I know I will be doing it. Thanks for the easy to read and the drainage/toxin info. Very good to know.
    Keep up the good job!
    Michelle

    1. Hi Michelle, Thank you! This is a great pose for kids. My 12 year old daughter said “it helps me fall asleep really fast”. (Of course, please use your discretion before suggesting it to her. It should not be done during menstruation or while you have a headache.) I hope you enjoy this pose, and please come back and let me know how it worked for you!

      1. Hello again, Andrea,
        Had to come back to see the pose again. So tonight, I tried the yoga pose with my daughter…she tried the proper as well as the modified pose (with the folding chair) and she was not patient enough to wait the 20 mins…she stopped at 8mins…I said no problem…it’s a start…we do it bit by bit.
        I will try again tomorrow, actually the whole week and see if we can get back a few minutes to a lot more…and of course sweet sleep. LOL
        Michelle

        1. Hi Michelle, I’m so glad you tried the yoga pose with your daughter. It’s such a great thing to do for your own body and so wonderful to start teaching your kids about “self-care” at a young age. That’s actually really great patience for an 11-year-old to stay in a position for 8 minutes! Maybe try letting her pick a soothing sound (like waves or rain or nature or music) on YouTube. She may surprise you with her choice of relaxation sounds.

  7. I used a bolster to try this inversion for the first time tonight. I found it very relaxing, and I almost fell asleep….. lol.

  8. I was actually just talking to my sister about yoga the other day!

    I’ll have to try this! I have lower back pain and I can see how this will help stretch me out. Although I’m pregnant I will have a limited time with this pose or I’ll probably get stuck laying on the floor all day haha! 🙂

    I’ll take this information to heart!

    1. Hi Jenn, Legs up the Wall pose can defiantly help with lower back pain! Although this is a very gentle pose (especially legs up the bolster), please listen to your body in regards to how long you stay in this pose. Congratulations on your pregnancy and good luck!!!!

  9. I tried this while listening to a guided meditation – it was a fantastic combination! I’ll definitely be trying your challenge and practicing this 20 minutes/day for a week 🙂

    1. Hi Alyssa! I’m so glad that this pose combined with a guided meditation worked for you! Please let me know how this pose affects you after practicing for a week! Namaste

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