If you’ve ever tried yoga, you’ll know there are many poses to remember.
One of the most popular poses is called Viparita Karani, also known as Legs Up the Wall. Proponents claim it helps with many health issues, such as poor circulation, headaches, and chronic pain.
In particular, many people wonder if this pose can help you lose weight.
This article explores whether the Legs Up the Wall pose actually helps with weight loss, how to perform it, and other benefits it may have.
The Legs Up the Wall pose is exactly how it sounds.
To do it, first take a folded towel and place it where the floor and wall meet. Then, sit on the towel and lie down on the floor. Finally, place your legs on the wall so the backs of your legs are touching the wall and the bottoms of your feet are parallel with the floor.
Your sacrum (tailbone) should be sitting on top of the towel while your “sitting bones,” or your buttocks, should be a few inches from the wall.
Your legs should be gently touching the wall with your knees relaxed and you should feel a light stretch.
Hold this position for 5–20 minutes. If you feel uncomfortable or you’re not very flexible, pull your hips further from the wall or remove the towel from underneath your tailbone.
You may also wish to place a pillow underneath your head if you’re lying on a hard surface.
During this time, close your eyes and practice gentle breathing. Most experts recommend diaphragmatic breathing, which involves contracting your diaphragm by “belly breathing.” With each inward breath, allow your stomach to rise, followed by an outward breath.
Practice a 4-by-4-by-4 breathing style: Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds. Experts believe this type of breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows for relaxation (
The Legs Up the Wall pose involves lying on your back with your legs up against the wall. It’s best to hold this pose for 5–20 minutes and practice slow, deliberate breathing.
In order to lose weight, a person must achieve a negative energy balance, also known as a calorie deficit (
Simply put, you must consume fewer calories from food than your body needs in a day. Exercise can increase your daily calorie needs (
Though the Legs Up the Wall pose may burn some calories, it involves minimal effort and will not burn enough calories to make a substantial difference in your daily calorie expenditure.
However, more active, intense styles of yoga, such as power yoga, can help with weight loss. In these types of yoga, you’re moving your body and engaging your muscles more often, which requires more calories (
Some research has shown that practicing daily yoga may help prevent a person from using negative coping mechanisms, such as emotional eating, that can lead to overeating. It may do this by reducing stress and anxiety (
However, unless you’re incorporating other higher intensity exercises into your routine, or eating fewer calories than your body needs, the Legs Up the Wall pose is unlikely to help you burn enough calories for weight loss.
Because the Legs Up the Wall pose involves little effort or intensity, it won’t burn enough calories to help with weight loss. However, you can incorporate it into other yoga or exercise routines that may help you lose weight.
Though the Legs Up the Wall pose may not help with weight loss, it still has many other benefits.
May lower stress
Research has found yoga is an effective way to lower stress by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and calming the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
The PSNS is colloquially known as the “rest and digest” system. When active, this system (
- slows your heart rate
- stimulates digestion
- relaxes your muscles
- slows down breathing
- keeps your body functioning in a calm manner
In contrast, people commonly refer to the SNS as the “fight or flight” system.
During states of high stress, both physical and mental, the body releases adrenaline. This increases heart and breathing rates and stops nonessential functions, such as digestion (
This is why when you’re stressed or nervous, you’ll notice your heart is beating faster, your muscles may feel tense, and you may have an upset stomach.
The Legs Up the Wall pose focuses on controlled, slow breathing while keeping your body still. This allows for greater oxygen absorption, which suggests to the brain that you’re in a calm, low stress environment. This may lead to further stimulation of the PSNS (
Furthermore, taking time from your daily tasks to perform this pose can give you a much-needed mental break.
Elevating your legs can help improve circulation by reducing pressure in the leg veins and redirecting blood flow back toward your heart. This can also help with lymphatic drainage and fluid buildup to help reduce leg swelling (
Gravity’s natural force leads to increased pressure in your legs when you stand or sit for prolonged periods. Elevating your legs inverts their natural position and therefore reduces gravitational pressure on your veins to allow for better circulation (
However, avoid sitting at a 90-degree angle, because this can restrict blood flow. Instead, keep your tailbone a few inches from the wall to widen the angle and allow for better blood flow from the legs to the heart.
For best results, perform this pose 5–20 minutes daily.
May relieve lower back pain
Sitting for long periods of time can lead to significant pressure on the lower back and ultimately lead to ongoing lower back pain (
Spending a few minutes per day in the Legs Up the Wall pose can reduce pressure on your lower back, which may help relieve pain or discomfort.
Many advocates of yoga claim the Legs Up the Wall pose can help with an array of health issues, such as headaches, menstrual cramps, insomnia or difficulty sleeping, and chronic tiredness.
While research is lacking, performing this pose daily may help increase blood circulation to give the sensation of alertness and increased energy. Furthermore, by reducing stress levels, you may have better sleep and fewer headaches (
If you practice this pose daily, it may help lower stress, improve circulation, and reduce lower back pain. However, scientists need to do more research on the effects of this pose.
Though the Legs Up the Wall pose can have many benefits, it may not be suitable for everyone.
Common side effects of this pose include “pins and needles” or a tingling sensation in the legs and feet due to decreased blood flow.
Furthermore, some people report redness and pressure in the face. If any of these occur, stop the pose and slowly sit up.
Additionally, this pose can increase pressure around the heart and upper body, which may be harmful to people with:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- chronic leg swelling
- a neck or back injury
- a hernia
Finally, pregnant people, especially in the later months of pregnancy, may experience discomfort and additional pressure on their pelvic area. Those with preeclampsia or high blood pressure should avoid this pose.
Before trying any new yoga or exercise routine, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider to ensure it’s safe and right for you.
Those who are pregnant or have certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and glaucoma, should consult their healthcare provider before performing this pose.
The Legs Up the Wall pose is easy to perform and has many potential health benefits.
Taking time out of your day to relax and relieve pressure on your lower body may improve circulation and help reduce lower back pain and stress.
However, it’s unlikely that this pose will help you lose weight due to its low intensity.
While incorporating daily movement into your lifestyle is always a good idea, those with certain chronic diseases or people who are pregnant should consult their healthcare provider first.
If you’re looking to carve out time in your day for relaxation, you may want to give this pose a try.