Sarvangasana / Shoulderstand is often referred to as the “Queen of all yoga postures” - with Headstand being deemed the “King”.
Like the Headstand, - Shoulderstand is an inversion - and asanas that position the head below the heart or the feet above the heart bring harmony to body and mind - and should be considered a crucial component of any yoga practice.
The many benefits of shoulderstand cannot be ignored, as it is a complete pose, meaning it aides in the function of the entire body.
Benefits: Shoulderstand is thought to promote good blood circulation, calm the nerves by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, decrease depression and anxiety symptoms, relieves stress, ease fatigue, improve digestion, stimulates the thyroid, prostate glands and abdominal organs, stretches the shoulders, - neck and tones the legs and buttocks.
Contradictions & Caution: Shoulderstands should not be practised by people with neck problems, headache or migraine, high blood pressure, heart disease, menstruation or pregnancy.
Shoulderstand is considered to be an intermediate to advanced yoga pose. It is therefore not recommended to perform it without sufficient practice or under supervision of an experienced teacher. With that in mind - here is a step-by-step guide to this asana.
- Begin by lying flat on your back with your legs extended and your arms at your sides, palms facing down. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet flat on the floor.
- On an inhalation, use your abdominal muscles to lift your legs and hips off the floor. Curl your torso and bring your knees in toward your face. Then, lift your hips and bring your torso perpendicular to the floor.
- Bend your elbows and place your hands on your lower back with your fingertips pointing up toward the ceiling. Keep your elbows on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Do not let your elbows fall out to the sides.
- When you are comfortable, lift your thighs so they are vertical to the floor, keeping your knees bent. Draw your tailbone toward your pubic bone. Then, straighten your legs fully and reach your feet up to the ceiling. Lift through the balls of your feet.
- Try to bring your shoulders, hips, and feet into one line.
- Keep your head and neck in line with your spine and do not turn your head. Draw your shoulder blades firmly into your upper back. Keep a space between your chin and chest, and soften your throat. Gaze toward your chest.
- Hold the pose for 10-25 breaths. To release the pose, slowly lower your feet back to the ground, with your hands supporting your back. Then, release your hands to your sides and slowly roll down, one vertebra at a time, bending your knees if you need to.
Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds to your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes.
With a consistent shoulderstand practice, it is safe to say that a new sense of vigor and strength will result.