Just One Pose: Legs up the Wall, with a Caveat

Our Just One Pose posts answer the question, “If I have time for just one pose, what should it be?” If your goal is to relax, Legs up the Wall may be a good candidate—or it may not, so please read on.

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Why

Elevating your legs helps relieve interstitial swelling in your ankles and feet—the puffiness that comes after a long, hot day or workout. The weight of your legs helps settle your pelvis and back, and spreading your arms yields a passive stretch for your chest. Staying in the pose for several minutes while watching your breath engages your parasympathetic nervous system, inviting the relaxation response.

How

Sit close to a wall or a closed and locked door. Swivel onto one hip and swing your feet up the wall. If your hamstrings are tight, you may need to keep your rear end farther from the wall. Keep your neck long, spread your arms to a comfortable position, and stay a while—five to fifteen minutes.

Variations

For less pressure on your back and hamstrings: take your calves to a sofa cushion, chair seat, or coffee table instead.

For deeper inversion: add a block or bolster under your pelvis, bringing it slightly higher than your chest.

Contraindications

The elevation of your legs can increase your blood pressure, so if you have high blood pressure, please speak to your health care provider before inverting, even gently. The same thing goes for folks with a history of blood clots. While legs up the wall keeps your heart and head on the same plane, deeper inversions aren’t appropriate for people with glaucoma; again, speak to your health care provider before turning upside down.

—Sage

Hack Your Sun Salutes, Part 1

Sun Salutations are a standard feature in most yoga classes, and a given in vinyasa or flow classes. They serve to build heat, stretch the back of the body, and connect body and breath. To that end, they can be a good dynamic warmup before a workout or at the start of your yoga practice.

Problem

Sun Salutations are heavy on the forward folds, and thus can exacerbate issues with blood pressure, vertigo, or injury along the back and in the hamstrings.

Solution

In this video, I show you how to modify the front end of the sun salutation—sometimes called the “half salute”—to alleviate the strain on your vestibular system, blood pressure, and back. You can use a chair or countertop as a prop if you want to keep your head above your heart.

—Sage