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What Is Viparita Karani?

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  • Written By: Liz Thomas
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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The yoga pose, viparita karani, is one in which the legs are placed up against the wall, toes toward the ceiling, with the back against the floor. This inverted pose is thought to have a restorative effect with some health benefits. Several variations of viparita karani incorporate different positions of the arms. Entering the inverted position can be tricky, though beginners may twist up from a side position.

Viparita Karana is also called "legs up the wall." A support, normally a folded towel, is placed next to the wall. The individual places the legs up against the wall with the lower back supported by the towels. The shoulders, arms and head are resting on the floor.

Once the correct position is reached, proper breathing is required. By exhaling and inhaling at a constant pattern, the body begins to release tension. The inverted position is said to reverse the flow of amrita or soma in the body.

Those that practice Hatha yoga believe that the viparita karani has the ability to heal many ailments. In addition to rejuvenating flow, it can also relieve cramped feet and legs. It stretches the neck, back of the legs, and front torso, which can often relieve mild backache.

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This yoga pose is also described as the "fountain of youth" pose, as practitioners claim it has a restorative effect. The longer the position is held, the more rejuvenating the effects may be. This is taught as both a soothing and energizing pose. Those that have been practicing the viparita karani for a long time can hold the position for periods of twenty or thirty minutes.

Advanced yoga practitioners can enter the pose from a forward roll transitioning from the adho mukha svanasana to the viparita karani. For those individuals that are not advanced or as acrobatic, the pose can be entered in an alternate manner. The legs are swiveled up against the wall from a side position, with the back planted firmly on the ground.

The arm position for the "fountain of youth" pose has several variations and will depend on the individual's preference. Some will keep the arms alongside the body, others will keep the arms straight out to the side. Arms can also be placed straight overhead in what is described as the "stick 'em up" position. In a class or area with limited space, the hands can also be folded over the stomach.

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