Whether you’re kicking off 2019 with a 30-day fitness challenge or a pledge to hold a plank for a full one minute by the end of the month, January tends to be the time of year when you’re the most motivated to push your limits at the gym. Personally, I’ve made it my mission to get in a 30-minute sweat sesh every day until February 1st, and so far, so good—to an extent. On the one hand, I feel so, so strong (I got into my first ever headstand this week), but on the other… ohmigodIAMSOSORE.
Even if you’re taking all of the proper precautions to make a harder-than-usual workout regimen safe for your body, your muscles will ultimately hurt after multiple days in a row of burning them out. So what can you do to rehab them so that you can keep trucking along? Put your legs up on the wall, apparently.
According to Erica Chen, an instructor at NYC’s Yoga Vida, “legs up the wall” is the best possible pose for helping your body recover after a particularly intense series of workouts. “Like in all inversions, you are reversing the blood flow in the body which helps to improve circulation, and redirects blood back to your heart,” she explains, noting that the benefits of the pose are multifaceted. “You are calming the nervous system by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. You’re allowing the legs to drain excess fluid build up, which is great for any swelling or cramping in the feet and legs. And you’re also easing tension from the lower back and might even lengthen your hamstrings a bit here.”
To do the pose properly, start by sitting on the floor as close to the wall as possible with your knees bent in toward your chest. Lean to one side and lay in fetal position with your head away from the wall, then scoot up even closer until your butt is against it. Roll flat on your back and extend both legs up towards the ceiling with your legs and heels up against the wall in an “L” shape—you might end up with a couple inches of space between you and the wall, which is totally fine. “You can then soften the knees, relax your feet and bring your arms either into a T-shape, goalpost shape, clasp your elbows over your head, or rest your hands on your belly,” says Chen. “Close your eyes and focus on lengthening your inhales and exhales, breathing evenly and deeply.”
If you need a slight modification, you can do the move exactly the same way with a low block or cushion under your sacrum, or make it extra dreamy by doing it on your bed with your legs up against your headboard. “Besides all of the benefits of this pose, it’s is a good reminder to slow things down and do some self care before you rest and recover,” says Chen. “I suggest turning off all technology and using this time to look inward before you sleep. Connect to your breath and allow the body to become heavy as you soften into the support of the floor.”
Of course, pretzeling into a yoga pose every night can only do so much as far as recovery goes. Be sure to listen to your body, and treat it with the love it deserves…. even if that means taking days off.
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