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Believe it or not, yoga is not all downward-facing dogs and headstands.
Actually, some of the most beneficial yoga poses are incredibly accessible to most people. I definitely used to be someone who believed we had to be a certain amount of bendy in order to be considered a “yogi.”
Although, even after the many years I’ve practiced and studied yoga, I still don’t consider myself a “yogi.” But that’s a whole other can of worms I’m not trying to open right now.
My point is that anyone—and I mean anyone—can do yoga. I’d argue that doing the dishes could be considered yoga if you’re being mindful, present, and aware of your breathing. But again, I digress.
And as much as I love a good handstand or crow, they’re generally not the poses I go to when I am actually looking to heal and connect deeper to myself and my body.
And for me, that’s a huge part of why I practice yoga—to connect. Yoga is not about the fancy poses. It’s not about how much flexibility or strength we have—those are just a few side effects. Yoga is about listening to the cries of our bodies. It’s about coming back home to ourselves—because it’s so easy to get lost in our day-to-day life.
Yoga is a tool we can use when we’re hurting. And it’s a place we can go to when we need to check in with the parts of us that carry the most emotional baggage. But, honestly, I feel silly writing about “what yoga is” because yoga can be anything. And everyone who practices yoga has their own individual experience of what it is and why they practice. Yoga can make us feel light, open, and free, but it can also make us feel like sh*t.
But for me, I find the most basic, accessible poses are the ones that bring forth the most clarity and healing. Often because they’re a place we have to surrender to stillness and release the idea that we need to be doing instead of being.
And there is one pose in particular that I believe we all need (and should be doing every damn day):
Viparita Karani (aka legs up the wall, aka the most underrated yoga pose).
Yes, this pose is exactly as it sounds. You lay on the ground with your legs up the wall. That’s it. That’s the pose.
It sounds simple, yes. Oh, but the benefits are profound.
Here’s how to get into the pose:
>> Find a nice, spacious wall (duh).
>> Sit on the ground with your outer hip grazing the wall.
>> Lay on your side and scootch that booty as close to the wall as possible.
>> Then, turn to lay flat on your back, and voilà: legs up the wall.
Once you’re in this pose, there’s nothing else to do except breathe and feel and be. And that’s my favorite part about it—the being.
There’s no physical strength involved or ridiculous flexibility. It’s a place where we can just allow ourselves to be held by the earth while gravity does all the work. And as much as I love standing on my hands, this is, without a doubt, my favorite inversion—mostly because it is such a beautiful reminder that we don’t have to do so much in order to reap the benefits of something.
Here are just a few of the benefits that legs up the wall can offer:
>> Relaxes the body and nervous system.
>> Improves blood circulation (and increased blood flow to the heart).
>> Relieves stress.
>> Relieves lower back pain (yes, please!).
>> Relieves menstrual cramping.
>> Gently stretches the back, neck, and hamstrings.
>> Reduces inflammation in the feet and ankles.
>> Gives an energy boost.
>> And most importantly, it reminds us that it’s okay to do less—and, in fact, it’s beneficial.