The name comes from the Sanskrit words viparita meaning "inverted" or "reversed", and karani meaning "doing" or "making".
Viparita Karani refers to any practice where one is upside down. This can include the asanas of shoulder stand (sarvangasana), headstand (sirsasana), or handstand (adho mukha vrksasana). In the hatha yoga pradipika, as in most classical texts on haṭha yoga , viparita karani is listed as a mudra (HYP III.7), meaning its purpose is for the directing of energy or kundalini upwards within the body (HYP III.5) as opposed to asanas which are used in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika to create steadiness (HYP I.19).
In one popular expression of viparita karani as an asana in modern postural yoga, it resembles Salamba Sarvāngāsana (supported shoulder stand) but with flexion in the thoracic spine (rather than the cervical spine, elbows on the floor and hands supporting hips or lower back.
Variations include bringing the soles of the feet together such as in Baddha Konasana or letting the legs fall outward into a straddle.
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