There are an exceptional number of committed yoga practitioners in New York City. There are the 9:00 to 6:00-ers or 7:00 or 8:00-ers who hit up the yoga studio at 8:30 p.m. There are those who do it the other way around, starting their practice at the crack of dawn before a full workday.
Then there are the teachers: many of whom, like me, contently teach at all different times most days of the week. For me, this spread-out schedule can sometimes be energetically taxing. Late-night classes chased by a couple of super-early mornings with potentially long subway or bicycle commutes in between can throw off my sleep schedule and leave me sapped in the afternoon.
There is one amazing pose that has helped me manage my energy like no other on such days:
Legs up the wall, or supported viparita karani.
In addition to being a condensed nap, legs up the wall helps relieve and prevent tired legs, lower back pain, menstrual cramps, anxiety, digestive disorders, varicose veins, sciatica, and arthritis. To top it off, legs up the wall is easy to do. All you need is open wall space and, ideally, a yoga mat or one to two yoga blankets. You may also want to place a bolster or a pillow under the lower back for extra support.
- Place a folded blanket or mat perpendicular to an uncluttered wall.
- Lie on one side and line both sides of your seat with the wall. You should feel that each sitting bone makes contact with the wall. This is very important for an easy ascent into the pose! Please reference the first photo above as needed.
- Roll onto the back, extending the legs up the wall.
- Broaden across the collarbones by gently walking the shoulder blades toward one another and then allowing them to relax back down. Allow the palms to rest face up or place one hand on the belly and one on the heart.
- Rest for at least 5 minutes. I often stay for up to 20 minutes. If you lose sensation in the legs, slowly release right away and rest on your back until the blood flow returns.
- How to release:
You can roll onto your right side and rest or, if you’re using a blanket on top of a wooden floor, gently slide away from the walls by pushing through the feet. The latter is my preferred exit. Not only is it somewhat amusing, but it allows the spine to rest in a neutral position, free of extra torsion. It’s also an excellent way to transition into savasana.
Yoga brings stability and calm into every discipline of Sophie Herbert's life. She is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student) and a Whole Living contributing editor. She graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art, where she nurtured her passion for documentary photography. It was during this time that she began her disciplined and diverse study of yoga in New York, Paris, and India.
Sophie has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India. She feels grateful to still visit and work regularly with the Deenabandhu Children's Home in Chamarajanagar, Karnataka. In November of 2010, she became an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back www.yogagivesback.org, a grass-roots nonprofit that helps destitute women and girls in India build more sustainable lives. Sophie has also shared her knowledge of yoga at the Prana Yoga Center in Astana, Kazakhstan. Currently, she teaches at the Park Slope Yoga Center www.parkslopeyoga.com in Brooklyn and privately. Sophie is also an avid cook.