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BoxLife Magazine

Improve Recovery: Legs Up The Wall

By Kat Buechel

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November 17, 2014

For most of us, the first thing that we want to do after a Metcon or marathon of burpees is to lay on the ground, gasping for air and making pretty sweat angels.  Although laying on the ground is a common post-WOD phenomenon, there is a better way to find recovery – legs up the wall, or as it’s known in yoga, Viparaita Karani.

Legs up the wall can be done right after a WOD or if you are short on time at home.  The pose is restorative and great for recovery 24 hours after a WOD on rest days.  The torso is placed on the floor and legs are Viparita, reversed or inverted, which creates blood flow to relieve ailments such as high or low blood pressure, arthritis, or lymph collection in the feet from lots of activities that use leg strength such as running and weightlifting.

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Begin
Find a wall and take a seat next to it sideways.  Your shoulder and leg will be touching the wall on one side.  Start to come onto the wall by swinging the legs up and laying your torso (back) on the ground.  You may need to slide your buttocks closer to the wall to allow your sitting bones to be supported by the wall. Release your belly down by dropping the tailbone, allowing the pelvis to come to a neutral position. Place your arms to the side, allowing the shoulders to draw away from the spine, and rest your hands at your sides.

Take it deeper with these variations for more recovery in the lower back, shoulders, head and neck

  • If you suffer from low back pain or just grueling soreness from WODs, consider placing an ab mat, or if you are at home, pillow or blanket, underneath the lower back. This will elevate the hips, but will allow for less pressure to be placed on the back allowing for additional relief.
  • If shoulders feel tight, put your hands behind your head into a shoulder opener.  Grab your elbows with the opposite hands allowing the arms to rest behind you on the ground.
  • To relieve any additional pressure or fatigue in the head and neck, you can place a rolled up sweatshirt or towel underneath the back of the neck.

Stay here anywhere from 5-20 minutes to allow the body to feel the benefits of the pose. Focus on breathing and allow the mind to be calm.

Benefits
As athletes, the pose is perfect for recovery following a couple of back to back challenging WODs, Hero WOD, or any endurance activity.  In CrossFit, our legs provide us with strength and stamina to support us through a variety of movements and exercises. Allowing our legs to find the rest they need is important to building long term strength and muscle adaptation.  Many athletes complain of feeling like their legs are heavy or their lower backs are hurting, and this pose will help alleviate common soreness experienced by the intensity of WODs.

Common benefits of the pose include:

  • Helps regulate blood pressure
  • Relieves tired legs, lymph collection in the feet
  • Provides an excellent stretch for the hamstrings, the front torso, and back of the neck
  • Improves digestion and aides with mild depression, anxiety, arthritis, headaches, and insomnia
  • Allows the mind to find a calm, meditative state

Although this pose may seem accessible for anyone, it is not recommended for athletes who suffer from serious eye problems, such as glaucoma.  If you suffer from serious neck or back problems this pose should be done under the supervision of a teacher.

Variations
The pose can be done with the legs extended straight against the wall.  Athletes can also take their legs out to a wide “V” shape, which will provide benefits for stretching the inner thighs and groin.  If you want to find a hip-opener, draw the bottom of your feet together in a butterfly shape with the knees pointing out.  As the feet come closer to the groin use your hands to gently push the thighs down to take the stretch deeper.

Photo credit to Keith Waters/Kx Photography

Kat Buechel

About Kat Buechel

Kat, 500hr RYT, is a yoga teacher in Washington, DC. She is BoxLife Magazine's yoga contributor and has helped active military, police force, ROTC, and fire fighters train for everyday service through the use of yoga. You can find her teaching yoga at CrossFit Adaptation, CrossFit Falls Church, and Tranquil Space. www.321omfitness.com View all posts by Kat Buechel →

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