Benefits: This passive pose relieves congestion in the legs and is restorative for the entire nervous system. Many inversions are not beginner’s poses, but this pose can be safely practiced by those new to yoga.
Contraindications (cautions): Many teachers maintain that Viparita Karani is an inversion, and as such should be avoided during menstruation. Others though recommend the pose even during menstruation (as do I). Check with your teacher before performing this pose during menstruation. As with any inversion Viparita Karani should be avoided if you have serious eye problems, such as glaucoma. With serious neck or back problems only perform this pose with the supervision of an experienced teacher. If your feet begin to tingle during this pose, bend your knees, touch your soles together, and slide the outer edges of your feet down the wall, bringing your heels close to your pelvis.
Step by Step
1. Sit with your right hip and shoulder touching a wall and have your knees bent and heels close to the buttocks.
2. Keep the hip near the wall as you lean back on your hands. Take your legs up the wall as you lower onto your elbows. Then lay your back on the floor and check your body is symmetrical.
3. With the buttocks close to the wall and legs vertical, choose your arm position: Palms to abdomen or arms out to the side. Alternatively, arms overhead with elbows softly bent. Allow the shoulders to soften and relax into the floor. Keep the back of the neck long. Tune into the rhythm of your breath.
4. Allow the tongue to rest on the floor of the mouth and the eyeballs to sink toward the base of the skull. Stay here for up to ten minutes, breathing deeply through the whole body.
5. To vary this pose: Soles of the feet together and slide the heels down the wall, so the outer edges of the feet are against the wall and knees wide apart. Alternatively, you can let the legs fall out to a wide “V” shape to stretch the inner thighs.
6. Counterpose: Any standing posture.