Poses for Your Legs

Let Go and Say Ah

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As summer winds down, the heat and humidity linger across much of the country. Training outside in these conditions can leave you with a dehydrated, tired body and badly swollen ankles. Yoga has a special recovery tool to help you recenter, relax, and recirculate that edematous fluid in your lower legs: Viparita Karani, or Legs-up-the-Wall Pose.

The pose is very simple and very powerful. In its most basic format, it involves propping your legs up a wall as you recline. In a more deluxe form, it can include a host of props, from a bolster to a strap to a sandbag and eye pillow. Here are some ways to get in.

Basic Legs-up-the-Wall
Sit with one hip very close to a smooth wall or closed (and locked!) door. Swing your legs up as you lean back and down onto your mat or the floor. Your hands can rest on your belly, or spread your arms off to your sides any way that feels good.

Legs up the Chair
If you don’t have a wall handy, or if your back is bothering you, try the pose with your calves resting on a chair seat, coffee table, or sofa. This can help the tight muscles in your back relax, and it alleviates the amount of pressure your legs transmit to your pelvis.

Deluxe Legs up the Wall
If you have props handy, try these placements:
*Bolster or folded blanket: Place the support a few inches and parallel to the wall. Sit at one end and move your legs up the wall from there, so that rest your sacrum and low back are on the support, and the tailbone tips a bit to sink toward the floor.
*Strap: if your legs don’t want to stay closed, lightly hold them together with a strap.
*Eye pillow: an eye pillow on your eyes or forehead, and one in either hand, will help you relax more.
*Blankets: blankets beneath and over you will nestle you in and keep you warm.

Regardless of your position, use this time to turn inward. You’ll feel the weight of your legs settling your pelvis and back; you’ll feel the fluid draining from your lower legs; you’ll feel your chest spread; and you’ll feel your nervous system begin to relax. Stay at least five minutes, longer if you have time.

My athletes and students adore this pose. At the studio, we take it in
nearly every class in the summer. One of my coaching clients, an
adventure racer, uses it as his go-to pose after racing or any long day
on his feet. One of my yoga students, a basketball coach, sets up the
pose in his hotel room during recruiting trips. Try it yourself by
incorporating it in the afternoon or evening for even five minutes a few
times a week, and you’ll soon find your own shortcut to recovery. Ahh!

is a yoga teacher, endurance sports coach
and athlete, and author of books including The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga
and The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery. She teaches workshops on yoga for
athletes nationwide and online at Yoga Vibes. Find her
on Facebook and Twitter.