Productive Inactivity: Legs Up the Wall
It doesn't get more relaxing than this: Legs Up the Wall, or Viparita Karani. Many members of the studio love, and I mean looooooooove, this pose! Active practitioners may not work this into a regular sequence because it seems, well, too passive. And that's the point. The balance of yoga is a series of poses and counterposes. So you may strengthen, then lengthen. Or twist and return to center. Or extend, then flex. Legs Up the Wall allows for complete relaxation, and everyone does it differently, depending on their needs. The model in the picture is using a rounded bolster for support; some people place cushions or blankets under their hips; other people may support the entire length of the spine; still others choose only a head cushion--or no cushion at all. The purpose of the pose is to position yourself for 5-15 minutes in a state of ease, allow your breath to return to its automatic rhythm, and simply be. When you allow this, a number of interesting things happen. Reactions may include relief from anxiety, stress, migraines, leg swelling, insomnia, PMS, digestive issues, restless legs, hormonal imbalance, and a host of other physical issues. What Legs Up the Wall does not do is change your circulatory pattern, or increase the heart's activity. Many physicians support this pose for its restorative factors, but scientific research reinforces that those two aspects simply do not happen. If your yoga practice doesn't include Legs Up the Wall, you can--and should--still do it. This is my go-to positioning when I've been landscaping for 4-5 hours straight, bent over and squatting and lifting and digging. I feel immediate relief if I do this for about 10 minutes after being outside, then take a shower. It's also a great release after a long workday, or just before bed to induce a preparatory state of calm. Play with positioning and props, and surrender to the simplicity.