Shoulder Stand

Shoulder Stand

Shoulder Stand is an inverted, cooling pose. Sanskrit name: Salamba Sarvangasana (pronounced: sah-LOM-bah sar-van-GAHS-anna), salamba = with support (sa = with alamba = support), sarva = all, anga = limb.

* Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
* Stimulates the thyroid and prostate glands and abdominal organs
* Stretches the shoulders and neck
* Tones the legs and buttocks
* Improves digestion
* Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
* Reduces fatigue and alleviates insomnia
* Therapeutic for asthma, infertility, and sinusitis

Contraindications and Cautions
* Diarrhea
* Headache
* High blood pressure
* Menstruation
* Neck injury
* Pregnancy: If you are experienced with this pose, you can continue to practice it late into pregnancy. However, don’t take up the practice of Sarvangasana after you become pregnant.
* Salamba Sarvangasana is considered to be an intermediate to advanced pose. Do not perform this pose without sufficient prior experience or unless you have the supervision of an experienced instructor. Some schools of yoga recommend doing Salamba Sirsasana before Salamba Sarvangasana, others vice versa. The instruction here assumes the former order.

Step by step

1. Lay on the floor on your back with your arms on the floor alongside your torso, then bend your knees and set your feet against the floor with the heels close to the sitting bones. Exhale, press your arms against the floor and push your feet away from the floor, drawing your thighs into the front torso.

2. Continue to lift by curling the pelvis and then the back torso away from the floor, so that your knees come toward your face. Stretch your arms out parallel and turn them outward so the fingers press against the floor (and the thumbs point behind you). Bend your elbows and draw them toward each other. Spread your palms against the back of your torso. Raise your pelvis over the shoulders, so that the torso is relatively perpendicular to the floor. Walk your hands up your back (toward the floor) without letting the elbows slide too much wider than shoulder width.

3. Inhale and lift your bent knees toward the ceiling, bringing your thighs in line with your torso and hanging the heels down by your buttocks. Press your tail bone toward your pubis and turn the upper thighs inward slightly. Finally inhale and straighten the knees, pressing the heels up toward the ceiling. When the backs of the legs are fully lengthened, lift through the balls of the big toes so the inner legs are slightly longer than the outer.

4. Soften the throat and tongue. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, and move the sternum toward the chin. Your forehead should be relatively parallel to the floor, your chin perpendicular. Press the backs of your upper arms and the tops of your shoulders actively into the blanket support, and try to lift the upper spine away from the floor. Gaze softly at your chest.

5. As a beginner, stay in the pose for about 30 seconds. Gradually add 5 – 10 seconds on your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Then continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in the pose. Again gradually add 5 – 10 seconds onto your stay every day until you can hold the pose for 5 minutes. To come down, exhale, bend your knees into your torso again, and roll your back torso slowly and carefully onto the floor, keeping the back of your head on the floor.

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Bassam Younes

Bassam Younes is a certified holistic counselor, transformational coach, and speaker. He has been teaching meditation for seven years.

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