Anyone can do yoga — and you don’t need to go to class regularly to start seeing the benefits. All it takes is ten minutes of your time, in the comfort of your own home, or you can slot it into your regular exercise regime. This week: How legs up the wall pose can help to relieve fatigue, stress and even puffy ankles.
I spent a long, gruelling day on Grafton Street recently, battling the Christmas crowds in a futile attempt to sort Christmas, while my mum looked after the smallies. Arriving home frazzled with throbbing feet, what was the first thing I did? Legs up the wall pose (with the kids clambering all over me, of course!).
This ‘go to’ pose comes into its own after a long day. It’s an easy inversion. You know all those fancy handstands and headstands you see yogis hanging out in on magazine covers? Well, you’re getting most of the benefits of those hardcore inversions from this pose, without needing the skills of an acrobat.
By raising the legs in the air, gravity encourages blood and lymph away from the feet, which helps puffy ankles and varicose veins. A sense of relief creeps into the lower back, and the hamstrings get a stress-free stretch. The heart gets a rest too, which means legs up the wall pose can help regulate blood pressure and soothe the nervous system. As the body slows down, so does the mind, easing away stress and headaches, and setting you up for a good night’s kip.
HOW TO DO IT
If you don’t have carpet, place a mat or rug perpendicular to a wall. Lay a folded blanket right up against the wall too.
Sit on the folded blanket, right side of the body pressed against the wall, knees bent. Place your left elbow on the floor and swing both legs up on the wall. Your torso will naturally lie on the floor, pelvis supported by the blanket, bottom up close to the skirting board. If you are too far away from the wall, don’t try and wriggle in — come down and start again.
You should be comfortable here, pelvis sinking, lower back releasing. Tuck the chin in slightly to release the neck and relax the hands to either side of the body, palms facing up. Close the eyes. Your feet becoming lighter almost immediately — notice that refreshing feeling. You can keep the legs together or take them apart, like I have in the picture above.
Coming to the breath, inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of six. Repeat ten times. By lengthening the exhale you slow the heart rate, calming the body and encouraging that seductive sense of relaxation to spread through the body. After ten breaths, let the breath return to its natural rhythm. And do nothing. Simply focus on that sinking and softening sensation as you exhale.
Stay in the posture as long as you like — maybe five minutes, maybe 20. Whatever works for you – a nd fits in with your day. To come out, bend your knees, roll onto your side and rest here for several breaths. Push up to a sitting position. And there you are, all ready to face the Christmas craziness again.
CAN ANYONE HAVE A GO?
This isn’t the pose for those with glaucoma, I’m afraid, or anyone with serious back problems. Tingling in the toes? Try bending the knees out to the sides and bring the soles of the feet together.
Published in the Irish Daily Mail Good Health supplement on January 20, 2015