Need a moment? Sit back, relax, and put your legs up the wall.
Legs-up-the-Wall (aka Viparita Karani) may sound like a Spider-Man maneuver, but it’s actually a simple restorative yoga pose. You can do it essentially anywhere, using just your bod and a wall.
But does Legs-up-the-Wall help weight loss?
While you can burn calories doing the Legs-up-the-Wall Pose, it’s not quite a weight loss solution. You can still add it to your weight loss plan, but it may be better to help with circulation, pain, and headaches.
- Fold a towel and place it where the floor and wall meet. (You can skip the towel if you don’t need extra support.)
- Sit on the towel and then lie back onto the floor. Your tailbone should be on the towel, with your bum just inches from the wall.
- Lift your legs against the wall so the backs are touching the wall and your feet are parallel to the floor.
- Keep your knees relaxed and your legs gently touching the wall. You should feel a light stretch.
Once you have your Legs-up-the-Wall Pose, hold it for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. If you start feeling uncomfortable or you’re not very flexible, you can scoot your hips a bit farther from the wall.
Tips for max relaxation
Breathe! Holding your breath can take away from the relaxation. Try practicing box breathing: Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds. According to a 2018 study, slow breathing techniques like this can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps with relaxation.
Cushion your tush (and your head). Lying on a hard floor for a long time can be anything but relaxing. If the towel isn’t cutting it, place a yoga mat underneath you while you’re in the pose or even add a pillow under your head.
In order to lose weight, you need a negative energy balance — meaning you burn more calories than you take in. Adding exercise to your routine can help you burn extra calories. And yes, even yoga can burn calories.
But Legs-up-the-Wall doesn’t take a lot of movement or effort, so the calories burned are minimal. You’ll get a better burn with higher-intensity yoga (think power yoga) because your body will be moving more and using more muscles, which requires more energy.
Yoga may also help curb snacking when you’re feeling bummed or stressed. A small 2020 study on women dealing with binge eating found that those who did yoga experienced less frequent binge eating and increased mindfulness skills. But more research is needed to confirm this effect.
When practicing yoga moves, including Legs-up-the-Wall, you may notice your stress levels declining. This is due to the effect yoga has on both your parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and your sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
The PSNS is also known as the “rest and digest” system. Yoga stimulates this system, which can slow your heart rate, relax your muscles, and essentially get you in a calm and Zen mindset.
The SNS, on the other hand, is your “fight or flight” system. It goes into full swing during stressful moments, creating adrenaline that causes your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense. Yoga can help tame your SNS.
Got the indigestion tummy rumbles? The SNS can interfere with nonessential functions in your body, including digestion — which means that stress may cause an upset stomach.
Propping your legs up over your head can help blood move down to your heart, thanks to reduced pressure on your leg veins.
According to a 2018 article, gravity puts pressure on your legs when you stand or sit for too long. Legs-up-the-Wall can reduce that gravitational pressure and give you better circulation.
Keeping your legs elevated can also reduce swelling and fluid buildup, thanks to lymphatic drainage.
Decreased lower back pain
If you sit around too long, you’ll likely feel it in your back (hello, bad WFH posture). Popping a squat for a long time puts pressure on your lower back and leads to ongoing lower back pain.
Help with other health issues
In a small 2017 study on women with type 2 diabetes, those who practiced yoga 3 times a week had improvements in sleep quality after 6 and 12 weeks. And a small 2019 study suggested that yoga could contribute to better sleep in people who deal with sleep troubles during PMS.
This move isn’t a go-to for everyone. The side effect most often noted is a tingling “pins and needles” feeling that can happen as blood gradually flows away from your legs and toward your heart.
Another possible side effect is redness and pressure in your face. If you experience this, slowly move out of the pose.
Because the pose places increased pressure on the upper body and heart, certain people shouldn’t attempt it without getting the OK from a healthcare provider.
This includes people with conditions such as:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- chronic leg swelling
- neck or back injuries
What if you’re preggo?
This yoga pose can help address the swelling and soreness that come along with a growing bump. But, particularly if you’re farther along in pregnancy, you may experience discomfort or pressure in your pelvis when lying on your back.
If it feels uncomfortable, just don’t do the pose. There are plenty of other prenatal yoga poses to try. You should also skip this pose if you’ve been diagnosed with preeclampsia or high blood pressure.
You’re likely not going to reach your weight loss goals just by doing Legs-up-the-Wall. It may help with weight loss by decreasing your stress level, leading to less stress-eating. But you’ll burn more calories by doing more-intense yoga moves or aerobic activities.
Still, incorporating this yoga pose into your routine could help reduce lower back pain and improve relaxation and circulation. So go ahead — put your feet up.