Legs Up The Wall Benefits

Legs Up The Wall Benefits
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If thinking about yoga brings to mind images of backbends and headstands, think again. You don’t have to be a yoga die-hard or even particularly flexible to reap the benefits of simpler, more accessible poses. One of them is viparita karani, often referred to as legs-up-the-wall pose, which is exactly as it sounds: Your torso and head lie flat on the ground while your legs are inverted up a wall.

The Yoga Pose You Need: The Health Benefits of Legs Up the Wall

yoga position Legs Up On Wall

If thinking about yoga brings to mind images of backbends and headstands, think again. You don’t have to be a yoga die-hard or even particularly flexible to reap the benefits of simpler, more accessible poses. One of them is viparita karani, often referred to as legs-up-the-wall pose, which is exactly as it sounds: Your torso and head lie flat on the ground while your legs are inverted up a wall.

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Robert Saper, MD, MPH, Chair of Wellness and Preventive Medicine, talks about what legs-up-the-wall pose can do for your body and how to safely execute it, whether or not you’re a yogi in training.

Health benefits of legs-up-the-wall pose (viparita karani)

Legs-up-the-wall pose is one of several yoga poses known as inversion poses. “This means that the upper body is inverted from its normal, upright position,” Dr. Saper explains. Other examples include downward-facing dog, shoulder stands and headstands.

In Sanskrit, viparita means “inverted” and karani translates to “in action.” When you do legs-up-the-wall pose, then, you’re in an active inversion position. With your legs above the rest of your body, gravity gets to work on them in a way it simply can’t for most of the day.

And legs-up-the-wall pose is accessible even to people who aren’t able to do other inversion poses. “The advantage of legs up the wall compared to a headstand or shoulder stand is that you’re able to achieve the benefits of inversion without stressing or straining your neck and head,” Dr. Saper explains. He cautions that anyone with chronic neck pain or any disorders of the spine in the neck region should not do shoulder stands or headstands.

He outlines the potential health benefits of legs-up-the-wall pose.

It improves circulation

A common cause of leg swelling is venous insufficiency when your leg veins don’t effectively circulate blood from your legs back up toward your heart. Weak circulation is associated with blood pooling and retention of blood in your legs, which can raise your chances of blood clots — and, at the very least, some swelling and discomfort.

Even if you don’t have chronic venous insufficiency, standing or sitting all day may limit your body’s ability to easily circulate blood back up your body. But legs up the wall can help.

“The main benefit of viparita karani is that it puts back into circulation the bodily fluids stored in your legs,” Dr. Saper explains. “By inverting and holding that pose, it allows the return of blood flow and reduction of lower-leg swelling.”

It can help you de-stress

Research shows that yoga can, in general, have a positive impact on your body’s stress response systems, and restorative yoga poses like legs up the wall are intended to guide your body into a state of relaxation.

“Many patients describe anecdotally they find holding the pose is very calming,” Dr. Saper says. De-stressing is associated with better overall physical and mental health, and even a stronger immune system.

It could have additional benefits

If legs up the wall helps you relax, it may indeed help you feel better overall — but beware any sweeping claims that it’s some sort of cure-all, Dr. Saper warns. “Some people claim that it alleviates other conditions such as headaches and high blood pressure, but there’s no evidence of that.”

How often to do legs up the wall

“As a researcher of yoga and a yoga instructor, I recommend this pose as part of an overall restorative yoga practice, done toward the end of your practice,” Dr. Saper says.

The pose is safe to do as often as once or twice a day, whether as part of your regular yoga practice or as a stand-alone pose.

How to master legs-up-the-wall pose

“Initially, you should be instructed by a yoga teacher to make sure that you’re doing it safely and not straining your neck head or spine,” Dr. Saper advises. “But it’s relatively easy to do.” You can also learn from online yoga videos.

Here’s how to do legs-up-the-wall pose:

  1. Ready your props: Place a blanket or yoga mat on the floor, next to the wall, and use a thin pillow for your head if needed.
  2. Get in position: Lie down on the blanket or mat with your buttocks scooted up toward the wall. Your tailbone should remain on the floor, with your buttocks a few inches out from the wall. “Your back and head are simply aligned on the floor perpendicular to the wall, relaxed,” Dr. Saper explains.
  3. Feel the stretch: The backs of your legs should rest against the wall, with your knees relaxed and your feet parallel to the floor below. You should feel a light stretch in your legs, but it should not be painful.
  4. Take it easy: Relax and breathe deeply as you hold the pose. “I recommend holding it for a similar length as other yoga poses — anywhere up to two to three minutes,” Dr. Saper says. You can do it for longer, though, if you’d like.
  5. Come out of the pose slowly: When you’re done, move carefully into a seated position and sit quietly for at least 30 seconds. “You don’t want to rapidly come out of out of an inversion pose,” Dr. Saper wants.

Who shouldn’t try legs up the wall

As with any yoga posture, there are some risks associated with doing legs up the wall. Avoid the pose if you have been diagnosed with the following conditions.


Inversion poses like legs up the wall have been shown to increase intraocular pressure — the fluid pressure within your eyes — making them unsafe for people with glaucoma. “The pressure comes back down to normal after you resume a normal sitting position,” Dr. Saper says, “but if you have glaucoma, the pose should not be done at all.”

Conditions that cause excessive fluid retention

People with specific conditions that cause excessive fluid volume in their bodies should also largely stay away from legs up the wall. “They should either not do this pose, or do it very sparingly with guidance from their physician because there’s such a large amount of fluid that could be returned to the circulation it could strain the heart,” Dr. Saper says. These conditions include:

  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Liver failure or cirrhosis.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure

If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, you’ll also want to avoid legs up the wall, as this pose can further increase your blood pressure. But feel free to revisit it after working with a doctor to stabilize your blood pressure.

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The benefits of Legs up the wall pose

Put your feet up for 5 minutes and enjoy the benefits of Viparita Karani mudra.

Legs up the wall pose

It seems hard to believe that simply lying with your legs up the wall could make any difference to mental or physical health. But as yogis have known for thousands of years, it’s often the simplest postures that have the most profound effects. From calming the nervous system to strengthening immune health, giving some much-needed time out, and even promoting longevity, this ancient posture has so much to offer, especially in a world wrought with stress and busy-ness. For your how-to guide on Viparita Karani and its many benefits, read on!

Found within yogic texts as far back as the 17th Century, Viparita Karani’s name tells us a lot about the intention of the posture. From the word viparita meaning ‘reversed’ and karani meaning ‘in action’, we can understand that what many of us think of as ‘legs up the wall pose’ is intended to reverse and rebalance fluids, blood flow and energy. It’s not just reversing the flow of physical fluid that this posture can aid with however, but the flow of prana or ‘life force energy’, because Viparita Karani is considered to be a mudra as well as a yoga posture.

Mudras are symbols or gestures used to direct and enhance energy in the subtle body, and in this case, Viparita Karani is all about helping maintain healthy life force or subtle energy for as long as possible. In yogic texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Viparita Karani is said to help rebalance energy that flows through the various nadis (energy channels) and chakras (concentrated ‘wheels’ of energy located along the spine), and even says that:

“After six months of practice, grey hairs and wrinkles become inconspicuous. One who practices it for three hours conquers death.”

Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Now, whilst we can’t make any promises regarding immortality or the prevention of grey hairs, the benefits of this posture could indeed aid in reducing oxidative stress, thus meaning it could help reduce inflammation and just maybe reduce those grey hairs!

3 benefits of legs up the wall pose

1. Supports your lymphatic and glymphatic systems and gives your immune system a boost

Just as inversions like headstand and shoulderstand are understood to bring fresh blood flow and oxygen to the brain and upper body, Viparita Karani allows fresh, oxygenated blood to flow to the upper extremities, as well as stimulating the flow of lymphatic fluid. The lymphatic system plays an important role in filtering and breaking down bacteria and other potentially harmful cells, but the nodes that do most of the filtering are found on the neck, armpits, stomach and groin, which is why inverted postures like this are so vital for sending fluid there. The lymphatic system doesn’t have a ‘pump’ like the blood’s circulatory system does, which means it relies upon gravity and movement to help aid in its function.

Another important but largely unknown benefit of raising the legs whilst resting is the ability to stimulate the glymphatic system. This system is in charge of effectively ‘sweeping away’ the bacteria that the lymphatic system has filtered, so it serves as an important second step of ridding the body of unwanted pathogens. The trick to making it all work that much better? Relax. Both of these systems work much better when the body is in a relaxed state.

2. Helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system – our rest and digest state

Resting in an inverted position encourages breathing to slow, which in turn helps communicate to the vagus nerve that it’s safe to start fully relaxing. The vagus nerve is a long nerve that starts in the brain and wanders down through the body, connecting to areas such as the throat, heart, diaphragm, and ending in the gut. This nerve is always sensing what’s happening in the body and sending messages back up to the brain, which then influences how we feel.

Rushing around and breathing fast? The vagus nerve senses stress, so it communicates ‘stress!’ to the brain, and the brain encourages the release of cortisol – the stress hormone. Lying with your legs up the wall and breathing slowly? This nerve senses you’re in a calm state and sends that message back up to the brain, so that it can help you move out of the sympathetic nervous system (‘fight or flight’) and into a parasympathetic state (‘rest and digest’).

3. Relieves aching muscles and joints and swollen ankles and feet

After rushing around or sitting at a desk for prolonged periods of time, the joints and spinal column can become compressed and drained of fluid, leading to more aches and pains. Practicing a few minutes of Viparita Karani can help reduce pressure on the lower back, as well as relieving feelings of heaviness and fatigue in the feet, legs and hips. For those who suffer with swollen ankles and feet, this posture can be a great way to reduce the swelling and discomfort.

Who should adapt this pose?

Whilst Viparita Karani is a gentle and safe posture for most people, there are certain circumstances when it’s best to opt-out or use a different variation where you are not lying completely flat on your back. This includes if you’re pregnant, if you suffer from glaucoma, or untreated high blood pressure. If you’re unable to practice this posture, a restorative and supported Savasana with cushions and blankets supporting the body is another wonderful way to ease yourself into deep relaxation. To help stimulate the glymphatic system, you can gently raise your feet a little on a cushion or yoga blocks, which will still bring big benefits.

How to do Legs up the wall pose

If you have a 5 or 10 minute break in your work day, I’d highly recommend making Viparita Karani a part of it. Just as the posture reverses and rebalances aspects of the physical and energetic body, it’s also a great way to shift your state of mind and give yourself a much needed break, so you can return to your day feeling refreshed and calm. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika advises practicing in the morning daily at the same time, but it works equally well as a way to decompress and de-stress in the evening.

  • To get started, place a yoga mat against the wall, so that the short edge of the mat is touching the wall.
  • Set a time for anything from 5 to 20 minutes (start with just a couple of minutes if you have never practiced before).
  • Sit on the mat side-on to the wall, then manoeuvre yourself to lie down so that your legs can stretch up the wall.
  • Your legs should be comfortable here, so if you need to, shuffle either close to or further away from the wall to suit you.
  • Focus on breathing slowly and calmly, moving your awareness from your feet to your head o the inhale, and from your head to feet on the exhale.
  • To come out of the posture, hug your knees into your chest and roll to one side.
  • After a few moments, gently move into a Child’s pose position, then slowly come up to sit.

6 Benefits of Legs Up the Wall Pose

Legs Up The Wall Benefits

Legs Up the Wall Pose or Viparita Karani is a restorative yoga posture that allows the mind and the body to relax, relieving stress and tension. It is one of the most approachable yoga poses as it doesn’t require much flexibility or strength. But even though it’s a passive pose, its benefits are pretty amazing. Legs Up the Wall is also an excellent, calming pose for your morning or bedtime meditations.

How To Do It

  1. Start by setting up a cozy space around a wall – my personal favorite is to just lie in bed with my legs up the headboard.
  2. Next, shimmy your hips as close to the wall as possible.
  3. Walk your feet up the wall until your body is in a somewhat L-shaped position.
  4. Make any adjustments to facilitate a more relaxing space – maybe place a pillow under your head, or let your arms rest on your belly or out to the sides.
  5. Focus on your breath – try elongating your breath, taking a deep, slow inhale through your nose and a deep, slow exhale through your nose.

Try to stay in Legs Up The Wall pose pose for at least 10 – 15 minutes for optimal benefits.


Legs Up the Wall pose might just be what we all need after an intense day of work – or at any time really when there’s too much tension stored up in our body.

These are the main benefits of the Legs-Up-the-Wall pose:

  1. Relaxes the mind and body – Legs Up the Wall is a great way to calm your nerves and make you feel better. You’ll be able to relax deeply, release anxiety and tension, and get back into balance. It can bring the body back to its own innate capacity for rest, relaxation, and self-healing.
  2. Increases circulation – This pose can help with edema in the legs and feet, reversing gravity’s effects on your lower body. It also facilitates venous drainage and improves lymphatic fluid movement for people who have low blood pressure or spend a lot of time standing up during their day. Elevating the legs promotes drainage from excess fluid build-up and assists circulation by facilitating the return of blood back to the heart.
  3. Soothes muscle cramps – It’s one of the best ways to help drain tension and soothe swollen or cramped legs and feet. This can be therapeutic after flying, physical activity, or from the detrimental effects of sitting/standing during the day. Moreover, Legs Up the Wall can even aid in pelvic floor relaxation and provide relief to menstrual cramps and its related issues like backaches, headache and abdominal pains. The pelvic muscles naturally release and relax in this position (more so with a cushion under the pelvis) resulting in a constructive exercise for a hypertonic (tense) pelvic floor.
  4. Stretches hamstrings and glutes – Legs Up the Wall pose gently stretches your hamstrings, glutes, spine, and hips while taking pressure off of your lower back. Furthermore, the angle of the body in this posture reduces the curve of the lumbar spine, which will elongate and stretch the back muscles. The closer your hips are to the wall, the more stretch you’ll create in your hamstrings. It provides a gentle boost while improving your flexibility.
  5. Relieves lower back tension – Legs Up the Wall pose relieves pressure and tightness on the lumbar region, while also relaxing muscles in this area. Pressure is released from the spine in a supine position (especially on a bed or cushion), relieving the back from mild strain. It gently stretches the hamstrings and the back of the neck to ease back pain.
  6. Eases headaches and migraines – As majority of headaches are usually tension-related, Legs Up the Wall pose helps to gently stretch and relax the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back while improving circulation of blood flow to your head.
  7. Improves digestion – When you combine a longer hold of Legs Up the Wall with slow, rhythmic breathing, you will be tapping into your “rest and digest” nervous response. In this state, your body will be actively digesting anything you have eaten, as well as working to heal and repair your body.
  8. Improves sleep– Legs Up the Wall is a wonderfully relaxing pose. The semi-supine aspect of putting your legs up, combined with controlled breathing leads to a slowing down within your body. This exhibits itself in a lowered heart rate which elicits a relaxation response and, in turn, helps lower anxiety, stress and insomnia. This pose is ideal as a preparation before bedtime if you struggle with your sleep.
  9. Helps quiet the mind– By fully relaxing your body and by focusing on deep breathing in Legs Up the Wall pose, you will evoke a meditative state. As you breathe, surrender and let go, you’ll find yourself slipping into peace and bliss.
  10. Gives you all the benefits of inversion, without the effort– Just like yoga inversion, Legs Up the Wall pose can help to increase energy levels, reverse the effects of gravity on the whole system, help balance blood pressure, and soothe pain. Though this pose requires a lot less effort, you will still be getting many of the benefits of practicing an active inversion, while also fully resting and surrendering.

Furthermore, studies have shown that restorative yoga poses (specifically, Legs Up the Wall) can be beneficial for those suffering from the negative effects of:

  • Fibromyalgia (e.g., chronic pain)
  • Venous Disease (e.g., varicose veins)
  • Cancer
  • Menopause (e.g., hot flashes)
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Metabolic Syndrome


There are several variations to this pose that you can explore.

Thread the Needle

Thread the Needle pose against a wall is a safe and effective way to stretch the hips, particularly the piriformis muscle. Releasing tension in the hips helps to create a sense of physical ease throughout the entire body, particularly in the knees and low back, as well as mental ease and clarity.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Begin lying comfortably on the back. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet flat down on the floor, about hip-distance apart. Walk your heels in toward your body until you can just graze the heels with the fingertips.
  2. Cross your right ankle on the left thigh, just below your bent knee, keeping the right foot flexed and active so that the toes of the right foot are pointing back toward the right knee. Ensure that you keep your right foot flexed throughout the duration of the pose in order to protect the knee joint from injury.
  3. Bend your left knee and place your foot flat on the wall.
  4. Lower your left foot. Make sure your shin is parallel to the floor.
  5. Hold this position for up to 5 minutes, which will have you feeling a stretch in your right hip and thigh.
  6. Repeat on the other side.


This variation will have you feeling a stretch in your hips and inner tights.

  1. To do it, place the soles of your feet to touch each other with your knees pointing outwards to the left and right.
  2. Bend your knees and slowly move your feet toward your hips, down the wall.
  3. You can deepen the stretch by pressing your knees gently toward the wall.

In more therapeutic variations of this posture, you may have blocks under your hips to elevate them, creating a slight inversion in your lower belly, and a strap securing your legs together so that you can fully relax and release into the pose, without having to exert effort to hold your legs up.


When to avoid Legs Up The Wall pose:

  • If you have concerns with stronger blood flow coming to your head.
  • If you have medical conditions such as hernia, hypertension, or glaucoma.
  • Some teachers suggest you do not do this pose during your heavy flow days during your menstrual cycle

General tips:

  • Try not to bring the body to a full 90 degree angle as this can impede circulation at the hips. Instead slide your hips a few inches from the wall and/or elevate your hips by placing a cushion under your sacrum.
  • It’s possible that you feel a tingling sensation in your legs or lower back when you do Legs Up The Wall pose. Your legs might also feel like they fell asleep. In this case, shake our your legs to stimulate circulation.

Video: Legs Up The Wall Pose Relaxation & Meditation

Legs-Up-the-Wall pose is a great way to relax. Try this 10 minute video to unwind and de-stress while releasing tension in your legs and back.

This video is part of our 30-Day Meditation Challenge (click to join). A free program to find balance and focus with yoga and meditation.