Do you experience heavy, tired or swollen legs after long runs or tough workouts? Did you know that kicking your feet up is actually one of the best ways that you can help your body recover? I don't mean vegging on the couch for the rest of the day (although that can be nice too...especially during football season!), but actually elevating your feet over your head.
"Legs up the wall" is a yoga pose called Viparita Karani that has a variety of physical and mental benefits. It has become popular not only with yogis but also runners, triathletes, CrossFitters and others who enjoy this restorative pose.
One of the best things about legs up the wall is that it's easy to perform and comfortable hold for a long period of time. It's a "passive pose," meaning that all you are required to do is passively hold the pose with no muscle engagement really required.
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Physical benefits of legs up the wall include:
- Reduces swelling in the legs and feet that can be caused by being on your feet for extended periods of time by helping fluid drain out of the legs.
- Relieves tired, heavy legs by improving circulation. Gravity helps the circulation of blood when your legs are higher than your heart. Improved circulation can result in faster workout recovery.
- Gently stretches the hamstrings.
- Low back release.
- Improves digestion.
- Helps control blood pressure.
From a mind/body standpoint, this pose encourages your body to slow down and relax and has been shown to help with insomnia, anxiety and depression.
This pose is simple to get into. Bring your hips against a wall and extend your legs straight up. If the hamstrings are very tight, scoot the hips back 6-12 inches away from the wall. If the low back is tight, you can place a rolled up blanket under the base of the tailbone.
Another gentler variation of this pose is to have the legs elevated and the knees bent. This is a good modification if you find that your legs begin to tingle when extended straight up for long periods.
Get comfortable and hold legs up the wall for 5-20 minutes. Your legs will feel lighter and more energized when you come out of the pose!
Jen DeCurtins is the content manager for Run Charlotte Run. She is a certified personal trainer, 200-hour registered yoga teacher, CrossFit coach, running enthusiast and food and fitness blogger at Peanut Butter Runner.