Viparita Karani may reverse the normal downward flow of a beneficial substance called amrita (immortal) or soma (extract), as found in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Modern yogis agree that it may cure whatever ails you.
- Relieves tired or cramped legs and feet
- Flex your back legs, your front torso, and your neck gently
- Relieves mild backache
- Calms the mind
This is a passive, supported variation of the shoulder stand. You’ll need one or two thickly folded blankets or a firm round bolster for support. In addition, you will need to rest your legs vertically (or nearly so) on a wall or other upright support.
Determine the height and distance of your support from the wall before performing the pose. When you are stiffer, the support should be lower and placed farther away from the wall; if you are more flexible, use a higher support that is closer to the wall.
Your distance from the wall also depends on your height: if you’re shorter, move closer to the wall, if you’re taller, move farther away. You should experiment with the position of your support until you find the one that works for you.
Place your support about 5 to 6 inches from the wall. Sit on the right end of the support, with your right side against the wall (left-handers can substitute “left” for “right” in these instructions). Exhale and swing your legs up onto the wall while gently lowering your shoulders and head to the floor with one smooth movement.
You may slide off the support the first few times and end up on the ground with your buttocks. Keep trying. Try lowering the support or moving it further away from the wall until you are comfortable with the movement, then move closer to the wall.
Your sitting bones do not have to be right against the wall, but they should be “dripping” down into the space between the support and the wall. Your torso should gently arch from the pubis to the top of your shoulders.
You may have slipped a bit off the support if the front of your torso appears flat. Press your feet into the wall, bend your knees, and lift your pelvis a few inches off the support, tuck the support a little higher up under your pelvis, and then lower your pelvis back onto the support.
Release the base of your skull from the back of your neck and soften your throat. Do not press your chin against your sternum. Instead, let your sternum lift toward your chin. If your cervical spine feels flat, place a small towel roll under your neck. Release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms facing up, and open your shoulder blades away from your spine.
Maintain a relatively firm grip on your legs, just enough to hold them vertically in place. Put the heads of the thigh bones and the weight of your belly deeply into your torso, toward the back of the pelvis. Let your gaze drift down toward your heart.
You can stay in this pose anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. When coming out, try not to twist off the support. Instead, slide off the support and turn to the side. Additionally, you can bend your knees and push your feet against the wall to lift your pelvis off the support. Slide the support to one side, lower your pelvis to the floor, and turn to one side. Exhale as you sit up, and then lie on your side for a few breaths.