Viparita is the Sanskrit word for “inverted” while Karani means “doing” or “making” but also can be understood as “which makes you do”. Viparita Karani thus means “the posture which makes you inverted”.
To perform this posture, lay down in Supta Samasthiti with your body straight, your feet together and the knees straight. Now lift both legs up to 90 degrees so that the soles of the feet point to the ceiling.
Now you lift your pelvis half up and support it with your hands. You do not lift it straight up as in Sarvangasana, the shoulder stand. You could say you are now in ‘Ardha Sarvangasana’, the half shoulder stand.
If you are practiced in this exercise, you can place your hands down on the floor with your palms flat to the ground.
It is not recommended using blocks, cushions or blankets under the pelvis and to lean your legs against a wall. This is only an option if you have physical difficulties with this posture and don’t have the strength to lift your pelvis up.
This is how the name ‘Legs-up-the-Wall-Pose’, as it is given here is not actually accurate or correct for Viparita Karani. In a variation for people who cannot go into the original pose, this name may fit but the original pose is not against the wall.
Those who would like to read about its origin in the scriptures and confirm this statement can read it in:
Gherand Samhita, chapter 3, shlokas 34-36 and
Hatha yoga Pradipika, chapter 3, shlokas 78-82 and
Shiva Samhita, chapter 4, shlokas 44-45
As you lift your lower part up in this yoga pose, you work with your abdominal organs and the movement stimulates them. Through this, Viparita Karani stimulates your digestion and is good against constipation and other digestive problems. Additionally you increase your appetite through this stimulation.
Your urinary system also benefits from this movement as do women’s reproductive organs. With regular practice of this exercise, women can thus avoid menstrual cramps and problems of the premenstrual syndrome as well as the menopause.
As this yoga pose is an inversion, the blood circulation is stimulated and your upper body and head receives a stronger blood flow which supplies the whole area with oxygen. Through this, migraines and headaches, caused by poor blood circulation, can be healed and prevented.
Pimples, boils and acne problems also are reduced by this increase of blood flow. Additionally it is said that such inverted poses are good against losing hair and getting gray hair.
Of course this all makes it also a great exercise for anybody who wants to prevent or deal with high or low blood pressure. Blood and other body fluids stuck in the legs and causing swelling, get into movement again and thus the swelling will reduce. Whoever easily gets cramps in legs and feet can also try this yoga pose as a cure.
As far as your muscles are concerned, this yoga asana strengthens your arms and legs but also your back and your neck muscles.
Through the bending of your neck, your throat and chest are squeezed together and when you come out of the pose, they can unfold with your next deep breath. In this way you help your respiratory system to open to its full extent. The pressure is also said to help men who are suffering from goiter.
You move your joints and keep them active in a rather gentle motion which is good against arthritis.
Through the additional blood flow in your head, you get more oxygen which is beneficial for very problems like insomnia but which also lifts your spirits and helps against depression and anxiety.
This pose is also recommended if you want to clean your stomach, as it makes the water move faster from the small intestines to the large intestines. This is how this exercise is sometimes performed to support the Kriya Shankha Prakshalana.
You should not focus on bringing your legs further up, as you are not doing the shoulder stand. Instead focus on the bend in your back, feel your abdominal area and the work there and hold your pelvis.
You should not perform Viparita Karani, if you are suffering from neck or back injuries or previously had surgery of the back or neck.
If you have eye problems that could react in any way to the additional blood circulation, you should consult your doctor before practicing this yoga pose.
As always, be careful in the pose and only go until the limits of your body, never cross them.