Why am I awake at 2AM?
The other night, I was exhausted. It had been a busy day of teaching yoga, running errands, planning classes, and taking care of my family. I couldn’t wait to climb beneath my cozy blankets, snuggle into crisp sheets, turn off the lights, and fall to sleep. And I did sleep… for a few hours. When my eyes popped open at 2AM, rapid-fire thoughts started ricocheting around my mind. What if I can’t fall back to sleep? If I can fall back to sleep by 3am, I’ll get a few more hours of sleep, and I’ll be able to manage my day. What should I make for dinner tomorrow night? Maybe I shouldn’t have taught that pose that way in class yesterday. And on, and on… I spun deeper down the rabbit hole of insomnia.
If this scenario seems familiar to you, you’re not alone. According to this study, over a third of us wake up in the night and have trouble going back to sleep.
Practicing yoga regularly can help, and one pose, in particular, legs up the wall, can be a game changer for insomnia!
Legs up the wall to the rescue!
Legs up the wall, known as viparita karani in Sanskrit, is a restorative yoga posture and a mild inversion. Whenever you’re in a yoga pose with your legs above your head, you’re doing an inversion. Some other examples of inversions are handstand, headstand, and shoulder stand. Inversions are great for improving circulation, but legs up the wall pose does not require any arm or core strength, nor is there any concern about straining the neck.
Viparita karani is restorative and gentle. It can be done by most people without any special props, except a wall. You simply lie on the floor (or in your bed) with your legs against the wall, making an L-shape with your body. And the best part is…legs up the wall can help you get back to sleep!
Benefits of the pose
Whether you need to get back to sleep or you’ve had a busy day and want to relax in just a few minutes, legs up the wall can help! This is a great pose to reduce lower-leg swelling, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time standing. It improves circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid. This pose can relieve tension in the hamstrings and lower back. And, when combined with mindful breathing, legs up the wall can aid in calming the nervous system and slowing the heart rate.
How to do Legs Up the Wall Pose
I’ve created a video to show you how to get into this pose. It includes a short guided meditation to help you slow down your breathing and get ready for a great night of sleep.
Legs up the wall can be done against the wall, on the floor with the legs supported by a chair, or even in bed.
Here are the steps:
- Gather all of your props. Some people like to place a folded blanket behind their hips or a pillow beneath the head for additional support.
- Sit with your right hip beside the wall.
- Turn your upper body to face the wall and begin to reach your legs up the wall as you lower your back down onto the floor. Your body should be in an L-shaped position.
- Notice how the pose feels. Do you want to add a blanket beneath the pelvis or a pillow under the head? If the backs of your legs (hamstrings) feel tight, you might want to scoot away from the wall or put a bend in the knees.
- Here’s the most important part >>> begin to breathe slowly and deeply. You might count your breaths or notice the pauses between breaths. Let yourself rest in the pose for about 2-3 minutes. You may want to stay for up to 20 minutes.
- Come out of the pose slowly by bending your knees, rolling to one side, and staying here for 2 or 3 breaths. Then, sit up and pause for another 2 or 3 breaths before moving into bed and getting ready for a great night of sleep!
Who should not do this pose?
People who have glaucoma, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, or uncontrolled high blood pressure, as well as people who are pregnant should avoid legs up the wall pose.
Get back to sleep with yoga
So the next time you find yourself wide awake, ruminating about everything you need to do tomorrow, climate change, and what to cook for dinner, put your legs up the wall and get back to sleep.
Check out this video tutorial
I’ve created a tutorial to show you how to get into legs up the wall. It includes a guided meditation to help you slow down your breathing and get ready for a great night of sleep. You can access the class and get a FREE 7-day trial of the Peace Yoga at Home Unlimited Membership here.