salamba = with support
sarva = all
anga = limb.
Variations of Shoulderstand = Niralamba, pronounced near-ah-LOM-bah
The Shoulderstand Yoga Posture utilizes and alignes the length of the body. This yoga exercise is therapeutic as a stabilizer, as the energy that usually travels from the top of our body downwards is strongly affected by the reversal of gravity. Practice this yoga pose for optimal benefit from your yoga practice.
The Shoulderstand invigorates the entire body.
It also stimulates the internal abdominal organs (helping aid digestion), thyroid, and prostate glands.
This pose tones the thighs, buttocks, and hips while stretching the shoulders and neck.
Shoulderstand alleviates insomnia, fatigue, and negative symptoms of menopause.
This pose may prove helpful against sinus problems (including asthma) and infertility.
This also leaves a calming affect on the mind and may help those who suffer from depression.
High blood pressure
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.
Performing the Asana
Fold two or more firm blankets into rectangles measuring about 1 foot by 2 feet, and stack them one on top of the other. You can place a sticky mat over the blankets to help the upper arms stay in place while in the pose. Then lie on the blankets with your shoulders supported (and parallel to one of the longer edges) and your head on the floor. Lay 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.
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 to the edge of the blanket 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. Lay the backs of your upper arms on the blanket and 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.
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 tailbone 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.
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.
As a beginning practitioner stay in the pose for about 30 seconds. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds to 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 and 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortably 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.
Modify Your Practice
For structural support, enter and exit this pose with slightly bent knees.
You may also use a blanket or extra folded mat underneath the shoulders and elbows for support. Do not place a prop under the neck area.
Eka Pada Sarvangasana: Shoulderstand with One Leg. Come into the pose. Stabilize your left leg perpendicular to the floor, then exhale and lower your right leg parallel to the floor without disturbing the position of the left. The outer hip of the down leg (in this case, the right) tends to sink toward the floor. To correct this, turn the right leg outwardly, moving its sitting bone toward the left. Hold the two sitting bones close and rotate (from the hip joint only) the right leg back to neutral. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, inhale the right leg back to perpendicular, and repeat on the left for the same length of time.
Complimentary Yoga Poses
Virasana - Hero Pose
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana - Bridge Pose
Halasana - Plow Pose
Tips for Beginners
Beginners' elbows tend to slide apart and the upper arms roll inward, which sinks the torso onto the upper back, collapsing the pose (and potentially straining the neck). Before coming onto your blanket support, roll up a sticky mat and set it on the support, with its long axis parallel to the back edge (the edge opposite the shoulder edge). Then come up with your elbows lifted on and secured by the sticky mat.
Deepen the Pose
It's common in this pose for students to press only the index finger sides of the hands against the back. Be sure to spread both palms wide against your back torso. Push in and up against the back ribs, especially with the ring fingers and pinkies. Periodically take your hands away from the back, press the shoulder blades in, and return your hands to the back a little closer to the head than they were before.