Viparita Karani Yoga
The name comes from the Sanskrit words viparita meaning “inverted” or “reversed”, and karani meaning “doing” or “making” and asana (आसन; āsana) meaning “posture” or “seat”.
This posture is putting the legs up against the wall, and is a very gentle way to do an inversion. It brings blood to the head and heart; and it can be practiced by those who are not inverting (such as those with high blood pressure or those on their menstural cycle.)
Practice of Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)
• Fold a sticky mat up in half and place it up against a wall. Fold a blanket up and place it on top.
• Place the bolster slightly way from the wall to leave room for the buttocks to drape down.
• If necessary, adjust the height, either by adding a blanket or replacing the bolster with 1-3 folded blankets. The ideal is that the pelvis be horizontal and the trunk and shoulders hang down allowing the chest to open. Adjust the height to your needs. You can also go the other way, with a lower lift under the pelvis, or even with just the legs up the wall and the pelvis flat on the floor.
• Either come several inches away from the set-up, tuck the head under and roll carefully onto the padding with the legs up the wall; or sidle up to the padding, and swing the legs up the wall. If you cannot have the backs of the legs against the wall without the pelvis tucking up toward the ceiling, or if the legs will not stay up, then move a little further away from the wall as necessary.
• Roll the shoulders under and lift and open the chest.
• Rest the backs of the hands on the floor. Hold this position for several minutes.
• To come out of the pose, either bend the knees and come into Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) or Sukhasana (Comfortable Pose) up the wall. If in Sukhasana (Comfortable Pose), be sure to change the crossing of the legs and do the other side as well. Rest there for a moment.
• Press yourself off the padding until the hips rest on the floor. Stay here for a moment.
• Roll over onto the right side and press yourself up.
Benefits of Viparita Karani
- Relieves tired or cramped legs and feet
- Gently stretches the back legs, front torso, and the back of the neck
- Relieves mild backache
- Calms the mind
- Improves circulation as it sends blood and nourishment to the pelvis, heart and head.
- Improves brain function. As increase in blood flow to the brain brings an increase in oxygen. Like other organs, blood flow and oxygen help to revitalize and nourish the brain.
- Helps to stretch the back of the legs, the buttocks and the hips.
- Helps to open the chest (especially true when practiced with a bolster under the hips and middle back.) For some, this openess in the chest can have a positive impact on opening the lungs and sinuses.
- Calms the mind. As this pose can be practiced like a restorative resting pose, it helps to pull the senses inward. The brain and mind start to relax as thoughts start to slow down. When the mind is calmer, the body has an opportunity to heal.
- Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Reduce grey hairs and wrinkles
Therapeutic use of Viparita Karani
- Digestive problems
- High and low blood pressure
- Mild depression
- Respiratory ailments
- Urinary disorders
- Varicose veins
- Menstrual cramps
- Premenstrual syndrome
Cautions for Viparita Karani
- 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.