viparita = turned around, reversed, inverted
karani = doing, making, action
Step by Step
The pose described here is a passive, supported variation of the Shoulderstand-like Viparita Karani. For your support you’ll need one or two thickly folded blankets or a firm round bolster. You’ll also need to rest your legs vertically (or nearly so) on a wall or other upright support.
Before performing the pose, determine two things about your support: its height and its distance from the wall. If you’re stiffer, the support should be lower and placed farther from the wall; if you’re more flexible, use a higher support that is closer to the wall. Your distance from the wall also depends on your height: if you’re shorter move closer to the wall, if taller move farther from the wall. Experiment with the position of your support until you find the placement that works for you.
|Contraindications and 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. 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.|
|Modifications and Props|
|In addition to a bolster or blanket for support, two props are very popular for Viparita Karani--a strap and a sand bag. Once in the pose you can snug the strap around your thighs, just above the knees. The strap will help hold your legs in place, allowing you to further relax the legs and soften the groins. The sand bag is a little harder to get in place. Once in the pose, bend your knees and slide your feet down the wall, but keep your ankles flexed, soles parallel to the ceiling. As best you can, lay the bag across your soles (or heels) and then re-straighten the knees, pushing the bag actively toward the ceiling. This weight on the legs helps release tension in the lower back.|
|Deepen the Pose|
|Gheranda heaps praise on this pose (though that he's probably talking about a version more akin Headstand) and states that Viparita Karani "destroys" old age and death. "You will become an Adept in all the worlds and will not perish even at world dissolution (pralaya)" (Gheranda Samhita 3.36).
Svatmarama (who's probably got something more like shoulderstand in mind) claims that after six months of practice, "grey hairs and wrinkles become inconspicuous" (Hatha Yoga Pradipika 3.82). We should take these traditional benefits with a pinch of salt. Modern teachers do, however, believe that Viparita Karani is good for most everything that ails you, including:
|Viparita Karani is usually considered to be a restorative pose, sequenced near the end of either a restorative or active practice. But Viparita Karani can also be practiced as a pose in itself. Excellent preparations include:|
|Use your breath to ground the heads of the thighs bones into the wall, which helps release your groins, belly, and spine. In the pose imagine that each inhalation is descending through your torso and pressing the heads of your thigh bones closer to the wall. Then with each exhale, pin your thighs to the wall and let your torso spill over the bolster away from the wall and onto the floor.|
|A partner can also help you ground the heads of the thigh bones into the wall. Have her stand at your head as you perform the pose. She should then lean forward and spread her hands around your front thighs, just where they join the pelvis. On your inhale she should push the thighs closer to the wall, and as you exhale, she should hold them firmly to the wall as you release the front torso away from the thighs. Repeat for several breaths.|
|If you have enough wall space, you can slide your legs apart into a wide "V" to stretch your inner thighs and groins. You also can bend your knees, touch the soles of your feet together, and slide the outer edges of your feet down the wall, bringing your heels toward the pelvis. Then you can push your hands against the top inner thighs to stretch the groins. Remember, however, never push on your knees to open the groins.|