Legs up the wall pose as we call it in Yoga land is a restorative yoga posture that not only allows the mind and the body to relax but its stress and tension relieving benefits can affect you more than you might think. It is a very simple yoga poses, so simple even my dad does it, because it doesn’t require much flexibility or strength. The hard work here is honestly just being still and silent long enough to let this inversion work it’s magic.
The purpose of this pose is to invert the body in the safest and easiest ways to elicit a relaxation effect on the body. When the body is relaxed the mind can relax and stress and anxiety can decrease significantly. Slow and controlled breathing can help to lower the heart rate which is typically higher in those who suffer from stress.
A few years ago my 53 year old dad decided to have a freaking heart attack while my mother and I were only about 1,000 miles away. He’s totally fine now but he just needed some attention I suppose. Anyway, I visited him a few days after he got out of the hospital and we chatted about health and stress. He told me that he runs every day and asked me not to throw away his sweets and meats. I promised I wouldn’t but made him promise to do “yoga” with me.
We started our session with breath work. I asked him to breathe into his belly. He couldn’t even fake a belly breath so I put my hands on the side of his ribs and asked him to breathe into his ribs. Again, wasn’t happening. I asked him where he felt his breath. He pointed to his chest. I was shocked. Not because this is rare but because I knew right then that a lifetime of chest breathing + stress + running + whatever this man calls his diet was literally killing him. I knew I could help with at least one element of this taxation he was putting on his heart.
I made him lie down and throw his long legs up the wall and rest his hands on his belly. We practiced passively watching the breath get lower and deeper in the body. After about 6 or 7 minutes he was doing it. Not only was he doing it but he was very aware of his ability to breathe into his belly and the relaxation effect it had on his body. So much so that his blood pressure dropped so low that the doctors were able to take him off 1 of the 3 medications he may have been on for life.
Now here is why this happened. Legs up the wall pose with slow rhythmic breathing facilitates venous drainage and increases circulation. With a great assist from gravity circulation improves by facilitating the return of blood back to the heart. In his case, the heart with the brand new shiny stint in it. Side benefits, legs up the wall pose soothes sore, achey, and even restless legs. The calves, hamstrings, and pelvic floor all get a nice much needed stretch too.
Now I am not saying that this alone will prevent heart attacks but it’s a great relaxation practice to get into and it can have beneficial effects on those suffering from everything from stress to cancer, fibromialgia to insomnia, restless legs and post heart attack.
Try this sweet and simple exercise. Start with 2-5 minutes and build your way up to 10, 20, or even 30 minutes! Take care of that body.