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Shoulderstand Pose

Salamba Sarvangasana

Benefits

  • Stretches your shoulders and improves flexibility of your upper spine.
  • Calms the brain and nervous system therefore helps to relieve stress.
  • Improves digestion and massages and stimulates the thyroid and prostate glands.
  • Flushes mucous from your lungs.
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause.
  • Pose

  • Cautions

  • Modifications

  • Neck or back problems
  • Heavy period of menstruation
  • High blood pressure
  • Eye or inner ear infection
  • Pregnancy
  • Diarrhea
  • Salamba Sarvagasana is considered an intermediate to advanced posture. If you are new to Yoga, we recommend you start with the beginner variations suggested at the end and then gradually work your way towards the full variation.
  • Beginners may find curling up with your pelvis and lifting into the pose difficult. You can assist your pelvis lifting by practicing near a wall. Position the blanket support a couple feet away from the wall so your hips lay close to the wall. Press feet against the wall and walk the feet up lifting the pelvis to find the position of the hands at the lower back.
  • Beginners may also want to start in a half inverted variation by only lifting the legs upwards to a 45 degree angle. This allows your pelvis to remain slightly away from your shoulders reducing the weight on your shoulder and lower neck region.
  • To deepen the pose, press the entire hand against the ribs sending the sternum lightly towards the chin. At the same time, the tailbone presses into the pubic bone sending the heels further up to the ceiling.
  • Images
  • Step-by-step

(sah-LOM-bah sar-van-GAHS-anna)
salamba = with support (sa = with alamba = support) sarva = all anga = limb

  1. Have a support under your shoulders to create more freedom and ease for your neck.  Fold and stack a couple firm blankets large enought to support the width and depth of your shoulders.  A sticky mat placed over the blankets will help the upper arms stay in place while you are inverting.
  2. As you lie on the blanket support, position your shoulders on the blankets so your neck and head drape and rest on the floor.  Your 7th cervical vertebra, or the largest boney point on the back of your neck, should still be on the blankets.
  3. Lay your arms on the floor alongside your torso, bend your knees, and contract your abdominal muscles.
  4. As you exhale, press your arms against the floor so your feet, knees and back lift from the floor. 
  5. As your back keeps lifting, place your hands on your lower back as you draw your thighs into the front torso.   Make sure you are supporting your back with the whole plam and not just with your thumbs and index fingers.
  6. Continue to support your lower back as you draw your elbows towards each other.  Then, raise your pelvis more so the thighs can lift to horizontal over your shoulders.  With little or no weight on the lower neck, lightly turn the head side to side to increase ease and space in the mid and upper neck region.
  7. Bring your head back to neutral and if you neck feel comfortable, move your hands from your lower back closer to your back ribs without letting the elbows slide outwards.  Move your pelvis more over your shoulders listening to how your neck feels.
  8. Bring your feet and knees together.  As you inhale, lift your bent knees towards the ceiling, bringing your thighs into a perpendicular line with your torso.  As your knees remain bent, draw your tailbone toward your pubis and rotate your upper thighs inward slightly. 
  9. With your next inhale, straighten your knees, sending the heels up toward the ceiling.  Once the legs are fully lengthened, reach up through the balls of the big toes creating length through the inner edges of the legs.
  10. As you slowly breathe, gaze softly into the chest, relax the tongue, throat and facial muscles.  Keep your chin perpendicular with the floor as you firmly press the backs of the upper arms and shoulders into the mat.  The back of your neck should feel no pressure to tension.
  11. Beginners should stay in the pose for about 30 seconds and gradually increase the length of time within this pose until it is comfortable to stay for five minutes at a time.
  12. To exit, exhale and slowly bend your knees letting your thighs drape over your shoulders. 
  13. Contract your abdominal muscles to keep your pelvis over your shoulders.  Place your arms on the mat, shoulder width apart.  Keeping your head on the ground, knees bent, slowly and carefully roll your back onto the ground. 
  14. Once your hips rest on the mat, hug your knees into your chest and rock from side to side.
  15. Return to the center and rest for several seconds.
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jessicalin, posted on October 20, 2012

My favorite pose! It used to give me headaches until I learned to relax and embrace it.

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