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Classic Yoga Pose for lowering your stress response

Viparita Karani - Legs up the Wall Pose

(Dr. Rowin's personal favorite for stress reduction and immune system balance)


We all hear about the links between stress and disease. This technique practically guarantees a calm nervous system within 10-15 minutes.  Let your own body’s built in reflexive responses aid you into relaxation. This traditional yoga posture is known to flip the switch from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).



Directions (see picture): 

Lie down on the floor in a quiet room (or with your favorite meditation music) with your legs up the wall and a bolster under your hips (or use 2 thick blankets at least six inches thick, about 10 inches wide to support your hips in entirety) placing it length wise against the baseboard. Sometimes it can be challenging to get into position. You may find it helpful to look at the attached diagram. Settle your back on the floor aligning your spine perpendicular to the wall. Bring your hips as close and square to the wall as possible without causing discomfort. Make sure you are comfortable and warm and that you have a small blanket under your head so that your chin is slightly lower than your forehead.


When you feel comfortable, close your eyes.  Take some deep breaths while expanding your belly. Let your body have the sensation of sinking into the floor...the weight of the world falling away. When you have felt the shift (typically 10-15 min) slowly and gently bring your legs into your chest, rolling to your side, gently removing the bolster and rest for a few breaths in fetal position before slowly sitting up. Notice any sense of ease and renewal.


It is a great posture for the transition from work to home or anytime you feel under stress. This traditional yoga posture (Viparita Karani) has been known for centuries to balance the nervous system. We know now that it works by shifting the hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest”. It does this by pooling blood in the upper chest region where there are blood pressure sensitive (barosensitive) receptors that are sensitive to the stretch of the blood vessels. These baroreceptors send a message to your brain to slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure as well as activate the rest and digest response and restore the body to a state of muscle relaxation and mental calm.


This technique relaxes the physiology of the body which reflexively leads to relaxation and quieting of the mind.

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