Mastering Viparita Karani

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—Rita Longin, Austria

Mary Dunn's reply:

First, try the pose without a bolster. Sit sideways at the wall, with one hip close to it and your legs drawn into your chest. Roll onto your back with your legs bent, letting your buttocks come to the wall. Then straighten your legs up the wall. If your buttocks don’t quite touch the wall, lift your hips by pressing with your feet, slide closer, and lower your hips. If you have tight hamstrings, your legs will not meet the wall.

To do Viparita Karani with a prop, place a bolster (or several firm, folded blankets) with the long side parallel to the wall and six inches away from it. Lie with your right hip atop the right end of the bolster. Roll onto your back, bringing the buttocks to the wall. Keep your knees bent and your feet resting on the wall.

You should be supported from the back of the pelvis to the lowest ribs; adjust the prop if necessary. To avoid the sensation that you are falling off the bolster toward your head, bring the bottom of the buttocks over the bolster and toward the floor. Tuck the shoulders underneath you to support and open your chest.

Straighten the legs up the wall, allowing their weight to move toward the sitting bones, and relax the front groins. Bring your arms into a T shape and stretch the inner and outer legs evenly and completely toward the wall. Release your muscles, breathe quietly, and relax completely.

To come out, bend your knees and press your feet into the wall, lift the hips, and move away from the wall until the whole back rests on the floor. Cross your legs on the bolster and rest. When you’re ready, turn to the right side and sit up.

Mary Dunn began her study and practice of Iyengar Yoga with B.K.S. Iyengar in 1974. She was pivotal in the creation of major Iyengar Yoga centers in Northern and Southern California as well as in New York. Dunn currently teaches at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York and leads tours of world cultural centers for Yoga Out There.