How to Do Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Woman with legs up a brick wall in gym
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Restorative for legs, calming

Equipment Needed: Wall, padded surface

Level: Beginner

Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani) is a wonderful relaxation exercise to do before or after Pilates and yoga, or anytime you need some stress relief. You can practice it for just a couple of minutes or for as long as 15 minutes. It is a great way to end an exercise session or to use for relaxation or meditation.

Benefits

This easy exercise will relax you, help with swollen legs and tired feet, and increase blood flow to the core of the body. After exercise, it helps return fluid from your legs to your circulation. It also provides a stretch to the hamstrings at the back of your thighs, your lower back, and torso.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Place a Pilates/yoga mat or another firm, padded surface perpendicular to a wall.

  1. On the mat, cozy up to the wall sideways, getting your hip and shoulder as close to the wall as you can.
  2. Rotate yourself around so that your legs and feet go up the wall as you take your head away from the wall to lie down. Keep your butt as close to the wall as possible. Scoot your butt closer to the wall if you need to. You want your legs close to 90 degrees. They are as straight as you can get them comfortably but don't lock your knees.
  3. Make sure your shoulders and hips are in a line, and your back is in neutral spine—there will be curves under your low back and behind your neck.
  4. Relax your shoulders, moving them away from your ears. Let your arms lie loosely at your sides. Palms up or down.
  5. Balance your body weight side to side.
  6. Relax: Just lie there and do some deep breathing. You might want to mentally scan your body for tight places and let those go. Let go of as much tension as you can in your legs and hips. Feel the weight of the legs falling down, through the hips and into the floor. If you like to follow a visualization, learn the sensing the bones exercise.
  1. When you are ready, come out of the pose. Fold your knees to your chest, roll to your side, and push onto hands and knees. Push your weight back to your feet and come to standing. You can roll your spine up, or you can stay folded at the hip and use your hands on your thighs to help yourself up the rest of the way.

Common Mistakes

This pose is easy to achieve, but be sure to avoid these errors.

Breathing

Don't hold your breath. Taking conscious, deep breaths can enhance the relaxation of this pose.

Getting Into and out of the Pose

If you lack flexibility and agility you might find it harder to get down and back up from this pose. Take it slow and be sure not to twist or use forceful actions.

Modifications and Variations

As with many yoga poses and Pilates exercises, there are ways to change this to match your skill level.

Need a Modification?

Some people like a neck roll under their neck or a small folded blanket under their shoulders and head.

If you have difficulty keeping your legs in position, you might use a yoga strap to keep them together.

Up for a Challenge?

Placing a couple of blankets or a bolster under your hips makes this more of an inversion.

While your legs are up, you might also enjoy stretching them into a wide V shape or bending your knees so that the soles of your feet are together as the edges of the feet stay against the wall.

Safety and Precautions

This pose is safe for most people, but it does involve a mild inversion, especially if done with a prop beneath your hips. If you have high blood pressure or glaucoma, it is best done without a support. If you feel any pain in your neck or back, gently come out of the pose. It may be uncomfortable to do after the first trimester of pregnancy.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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