For many of us summer can be a wonderful time of the year, serving as a period of rest from our regular routines and an opportunity to recharge and take stock of the year before we launch into the business of back to school and work in the fall. For others who do better with a schedule, it can pose a challenge to find stability in the more unscheduled weeks and months. In either case, we are given a chance to look at our lives differently for a while and to change our perspective, whether through travel or simply spending more unstructured time with family and friends. There can be a freedom and lightness that comes with this more open time.
A yoga pose that complements this and acts as a cooling and calming practice in the heat of summer is Viparita Karani or Legs up the Wall. Literally, it means ‘upside down’; by turning ourselves upside down, we create a reversal of our usual upright position and are free to consider alternative perspectives. Not only that, but inversions are also good for us: they stimulate the lymphatic system, our circulation and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, or relaxation response, which can have a powerfully positive effect on our health. I practice ‘Legs up the Wall’ every night and find it very calming and grounding at the end of the day. If you are interested in trying it, here are some suggestions on how to do it. Don’t practice inversions if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, a heart condition or are pregnant.
1. Bring a mat or a blanket to the wall. You can also use a prop, like a folded blanket or a bolster if it feels comfortable to lift your hips higher.
2. Once here, sit onto your mat or your bolster with your knees bent, feet on the floor and one side of the body against the wall.
3. Slowly, with your hands behind you to support you, start to lie back onto the mat away from the wall as you extend your legs up against the wall. If you’re using a prop, you will want to have your hips resting on the support and your upper back and head resting on the mat on the floor.
4. Make any adjustments you need to get comfortable here and then relax into the pose, with your arms by your sides on the ground or out to each side in a T-position.
5. Stay for a minute, five or ten minutes… when you’re ready to come out, you can bend your knees and draw them in towards your chest as you slowly roll over to one side and rest. Take your time to come up to sitting, as your body will need a minute or two to regulate. You could also finish by coming into Child’s pose to rest.
Enjoy the rest of the summer!