“During the time of stress, the “fight-or-flight” response is on and the self-repair mechanism is disabled. It is then when we say that the immunity of the body goes down and the body is exposed to the risk for disease. Meditation activates relaxation, when the sympathetic nervous system is turned off and the parasympathetic nervous system is turned on, and natural healing starts.”
― Annie Wilson
Are you a stress-head?
I am. At least, it’s my standard modus-operandi. I’m a constant work-in-progress to manage my tendency to worry… (and yes – I also acknowledge it’s a first world problem. I’ll own that)
In my coaching practice, I’m all about helping clients to find sustainable tools to add to their personal ‘health toolbox’. So, I’m starting a new series – one where I share some of these tips and tricks with you. Little things you can add to your daily life that make a difference over time.
Want to know a secret?
None of this stuff is difficult.
But, just because it’s not difficult doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes a level of commitment to make small, incremental changes over time. Which is why having a health coach can be beneficial!
Let’s get onto ‘Legs Up the Wall’
I’ve chosen the Legs Up the Wall technique as my first ‘tool’ in this series because it’s so accessible.
It’s free, it doesn’t take much time, it’s seriously effective and almost anyone can do it. It is a very approachable pose as it doesn’t require much flexibility or strength. It’s perfect for people who think they ‘don’t have the time for mindfulness’!
Also known as Viparita Karani in Sanskrit, Legs Up the Wall is a restorative yoga posture that gets both your mind and your body to relax, relieving stress and tension. It’s the best way I know to switch your parasympathetic nervous system on. FAST.
How do you do it?
It’s pretty straight forward! Legs Up the Wall is exactly as it sounds! You lie on your back with your sitting-bones as close to the wall as is comfortable for you. If you’re like me, it’s more comfortable if you rest your bottom on a couple of cushions, a pillow or a bolster (as pictured). This creates a slight inversion in your lower tummy. From there, you extend your legs up the wall, so that the backs of your legs are resting fully against it.
I like to practice this pose for at least 10 to 15 minutes at a time. At least daily. But if you are new to the pose, trying this for a minute or two will still help.
While you’re there, try some calming breathing exercises or practice some meditation (I’m fond of Insight Timer). If you have an eye pillow, now’s the time to use it!
Alternatively, do nothing. Really nothing.
If you fall asleep, that’s fine – you needed it.
I do this pose at least once every day. I schedule it in my diary. One of the best things about any sort of meditation practice is the creative juices that flow as a result. Try and see…
When you are ready to come out of the pose, bend your knees toward your chest. Gently roll onto your right side and rest there for a few breaths. Then, press your hands into the floor and walk yourself up to sitting, letting your head come up last. Sit quietly for a few minutes and feel the effects of your practice.
Benefits of Legs Up the Wall Pose
Want to know just why this pose is so good for you? Here are some of the reasons.
- Relaxation – In yoga, this posture is designed to be deeply relaxing. It can elicit a relaxation response (a physiological state of deep rest that alters the physical and emotional response to stress) which, in turn, helps lower stress and help improve sleep quality. The action of Legs Up the Wall coupled with some focused breathing slows you right down.
- Reduces swelling in the legs and feet and relieves tired legs – Hanging out with your Legs Up the Wall is one of the best ways to help drain tension from the legs, feet, and hips (if you have them elevated on a pillow or bolster). You are effectively reversing the effects of gravity on your legs and feet. This is especially helpful if you spend a lot of time on your feet during your day. Gravity becomes your friend!
- Stretches the hamstrings and lower back – because you are reducing the curve of your spine in this position, you are elongating and stretching your back muscles. The closer your hips are to the wall, the more stretch you’ll create in your hamstrings.
- Relieves lower back tension
- It helps quiet the mind – With some practice, as you fully relax your body, and focus on your breath, you will move into a meditative state.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t try this at home?
As with any inversion, Legs Up the Wall should be avoided if you have serious eye problems, such as glaucoma. If you have serious neck or back problems, it is important that you only perform this pose with the supervision of an experienced teacher.
If your feet begin to tingle during this pose, try bending your knees and touching the soles of your feet together before sliding the outer edges of your feet down the wall, bringing your heels close to your pelvis.