I had a student who was menopausal, stressed out, and in the middle of a messy divorce. Except for her weekly yoga class, she really wasn’t getting enough exercise or eating very well. Because of all this – her sleep was suffering and she was tired and cranky most of the time. So she asked me if I had any suggestions. I recommended doing Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) every night for 20 minutes before she went to bed. I told her to do it for a week and then let me know how she was doing.
It worked – she’s sleeping much better now and has more energy to do more yoga and exercise and is coping much better with the stresses of her life. I didn’t tell her to do this, but she told me that she likes viparita karani so much that she falls asleep every night with her legs up the wall. Then she wakes up a half an hour later and gets into bed and has a great night’s sleep. I heard her telling another student who was complaining about insomnia about it the other night. “I sleep like a baby now,” she said, “You have to try it – it really works.”
Fortunately, Viparaita Karani is a remedy that can not be bottled and pattended. If it could, everyone would be scrambling for some. But it is readily available at an empty wall in your house – if you can figure out how to get your legs up the wall (I’d be happy to show you how if you can’t). It can help with such a wide range of problems and conditions that it really should be basic training in all med schools.
This is one of the first poses that was ever written down and it has been commented on extensively. It is claimed to benefit just about everything from thyroid and reproductive system problems, to varicose veins and insomnia.
Here’s what the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says about Viparita Karani, “There is a wonderful means by which the nectar is averted from falling into the opening of the sun… (3.78) With the navel region above and the palate below, the sun is above and the moon below. It is called viparita karani, the reversing process…(3.79)
The moon represents subtle consciousness and the sun represents prana or life-force and also the physical body. So this rather poetic passage is saying that viparita karani will help you preserve the energy and consciousness that gets unnecessarily wasted through the body. In other words, it will help you stop wasting energy on unimportant things.
What you’ll discover if you practice this asana daily is that you feel more relaxed, less exhausted, more rested, less anxious – and that you sleep well.
Here’s what it looks like when you’re doing it with the support of the wall:
And here it is when you support it with your hands. You can’t stay here as long generally, but if you have the strength to do it this way, it is more beneficial to thyroid, lungs and brain.
You can also support it with a block under your sacrum. Mmmm, Lazy-person’s shoulderstand – delicious.