To pamper our bodies, I would like to “work” on the Upside Down Pose with you. This inversion, Viparita Karani, feels so restoring to me, especially when my legs are tired. When you look up this pose on the internet, you will hear great things about it: it rejuvenates the body because the blood returns from the legs to the heart without the heart putting much effort into it; also the lymph fluid is returned throughout the body. The only hard work you are required to do is simply let go of the day and relax.
So, let’s take a look at the set up and then practice and enjoy the pose.
1 bolster (if not available, 2 to 3 lengthwise folded blankets can replace the bolster)
1-2 yoga blankets folded the long way
Yoga mat, wall, 2 yoga blocks
For a nice variation: yoga strap and sandbag (I read that someone used a 5 lbs flour bag if sandbag is not at hand )
- place 2 yoga blocks horizontally against a wall. Then put your yoga bolster (or folded blankets) horizontally against the blocks.
- Fold up 1 or 2 blankets the long way (from standard fold). Depending on the length of your trunk, place a blanket or two onto the bolster. (the longer the trunk, the more blankets you will need)
You want your set-up high enough so that your back ribs will be supported and a nice chest opening is going on.
- The following trick I found in Bobby Clennell’s book on yoga. It will keep your set up in place when coming into the pose:
Fold your yoga mat in ½ three times, then place it under your bolster support so that the front edge of the mat folding is tilted upward. This not only stabilizes your prop set-up but also gives an extra lift for the chest.
Getting into the pose: (put simply the way I do it )
- Sit sideways on the bolster with your right hip at the wall.
- From here, place your left forearm onto the floor in line with your left shoulder.
Your buttocks will lift and your sitting bones will be on the wall (as if now you want to sit on the wall)
- Now turn your trunk and pelvis do that the front of the body faces the ceiling. Your lumbar spine and the back of pelvis will be fully supported by the bolster set-up (at the same time allow your sitting bones reach down towards the floor) while your shoulders, neck and head rest on the floor.
- Straighten your legs up the wall
- Have your arms either alongside you or on your belly. (A teacher of mine once told me, if I want to help myself stay awake in this pose, I could just have my arms overhead- elbows slightly bent to stay relaxed)
- Stay in the pose for about 5-10 minutes
Work in the pose:
- Rest completely
- Soften your thighs, groins and abdomen
- Soften your ribcage, chest and shoulders
- Soften your neck, face, jaws and eyes
Getting out of the pose:
- A comfortable way to get out of the pose is to bend and cross your legs on the wall. After a while, slide your hips back off the bolster and rest your crossed legs on the bolster. Again after a while, change the crossing of your legs.
- When you feel ready, roll to the side and come up.
- Strap your legs with a yoga belt just above the knees. This way it can be easier to relax because you don’t have to hold your legs together actively.
- Place a sandbag on the soles of your feet. This helps rooting the thighbones down towards the floor.
- Yoga, The Iyengar Way by Silva, Mira and Shyam Mehta, published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 1990
- The Woman’s Yoga Book by Bobby Clennell, published by Rodmell Press, California, 2007
Katja Huiras is a 500 hr certified Yoga teacher who teaches alignment based yoga classes in the Lehigh Valley. In 2009 she was introduced to Iyengar Yoga and was intensely inspired by its method. Since then she regularly studies and practices with certified Iyengar Yoga teachers. Furthermore she just completed a Therapeutic Yoga Intensive Teacher Training.