Restorative Yoga: Legs up the Wall Pose
I'd love to start sharing more yoga poses, sequences, or information on the blog - if you have questions, let me know!
The first time I went to a restorative class, I left 20 minutes in. I thought it was a flow class, so I was ready to move and push myself - I wasn't going to waste my time and "relax" when I wanted to sweat!
After I realized, we were spending the class on the floor, holding stretches for 5 minutes at a time, I got up and left. To my defense, it was pretty cold in the room, and I was in a tanktop. To be honest, I wasn't ready for restorative yoga at that time.
My mind was way too crazy to relax, and it was hard to be in my body for even a few minutes. It took a few more years until I consciously chose to go to a restorative yoga class, and it was the start of a journey towards realizing that restorative yoga wasn't a "waste of time." I realized that although I love flowing in vinyasa classes, my body and mind also needed to relax! I didn't realize how much stress and tension my body was holding until this type of yoga found me.
Restorative yoga is a chance to slow down by holding passive stretches for 3-5+ minutes at a time. It allows you the chance to relax and active your parasympathetic nervous system - the "rest and digest" state. There's also a reason it's called restorative yoga - it restores your mind and body. For me, it's helped me connect to my body, accept my body as it is, and release anxiety and tension in my body.
If you've ever wanted adult nap time, restorative yoga is the class for you :) You'll leave feeling super relaxed and all blissed out.
We'll start with one of my all-time favorite poses - legs up the wall pose.
Legs up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani)
A Note on Restorative Yoga: Relax!
It's tempting to want to do something while in a restorative pose like this - you can so easily browse Instagram, as you rest here. Yet, I highly encourage you to put your phone down, close your eyes (or use an eye pillow), and just be.
One of the biggest lessons from restorative yoga is you don't have to DO anything - you only have to BE in the pose, and let yourself relax deeper. Notice what is coming up for you - what thoughts are present, emotions, what's going on in your body in the pose - and sit with it.
Feel the emotion, and let it release. Don't try to "solve" the thoughts or problems in your mind. When you notice your mind wandering, come back to your breath. Imagine sending breath into the part of your body you're stretching - if you're in pigeon pose (a hip stretch), send breath into your hips.
You may also find it helpful to put on a relaxing song or playlist - here's a favorite lately.
Benefits of Legs Up the Wall Pose
Wind down before bed - some find it beneficial to aid sleep or insomnia.
If you've been on your feet all day (or the runners out there!) - kick your feet up, and relax your legs.
Inversions are thought to aid mild depression and anxiety due to calming effects.
Calm down from stress! It's great to relax after work or at the end of your day.
Great restorative pose before savasana in a yoga practice.
How to do Legs Up the Wall Pose:
Sit next to the wall with your hip touching the wall and knees bent.
Start to lean onto your hands or forearms, as you swing your legs up the wall. If your hamstrings are more flexible, you may be able to place your legs comfortably up the wall with your butt touching the wall. If you are tighter in your hamstrings, you will be further away from the wall. Find a position for you that's comfortable, so you can stay there for 5-10 minutes.
Keep your legs relaxed, so you don't feel like you're holding them up.
Let your arms release in a way that feels good for you - arms extended by your sides, hands on your belly, or above your head if it feels okay on your shoulders and neck.
Lengthen your neck out, and relax your face. Close your eyes. Relax your jaw. Let your tongue hang heavy in your mouth.
Stay here for 5 minutes, and over time, build up to 10+ minutes at a time.
Come slowly out of the pose. It's quite a restorative pose, so take your time easing out of it. It's okay to be gentle with yourself, and move slowly, especially in our fast paced life.
Use a bolster or pillow under your hips - this can feel really nice!
Use a pillow to prop your head up.
Use an eye pillow.
Drape a blanket over your body.
If you get cold feet, put on warm, cozy socks.
Bring the soles of your feet together against the wall.
Extend your legs out into a straddle V position for a hip stretch.
Extend your arms overhead or grab your elbows above your head for a shoulder stretch.