How to do Shoulder Stand Safely | Shoulder Stand Yoga Pose Tutorial | Salamba Sarvangasana
How to Do Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana) in Yoga
Also Known As: Supported Shoulderstand
Targets: Stretching shoulders and neck
Equipment Needed: Folded blankets
Shoulderstand has been called the queen of asanas, a view affirmed by B.K.S. Iyengar in "." It's often the first inversion that yoga beginners tackle because it's much more stable than headstand or handstand. However, there are serious risks associated with shoulderstand so it's important to set up the pose correctly for the safest possible experience. It is part of the Ashtanga yoga closing sequence and you may find it at the end of various yoga classes. The Fish Pose is considered the counterpart pose and is ofter done after the Shoulderstand to relieve the neck tension.
Shoulderstand stretches the shoulders and neck. As an inversion, it sends more blood to your brain. This can help reduce fatigue and may be calming.
Although there are other ways to enter shoulderstand, coming from Plow Pose offers the best way for beginners to get their shoulders and back into alignment. Therefore, if you can't do Plow, do not attempt shoulderstand.
The Iyengar version of the pose encourages the use of one or two folded blankets under the shoulders. The positioning of the blankets is important. They should be lined up with the end of your mat. When you come into the pose, your shoulders and upper back should be on the blanket but your head and neck should be off it. The head is on the bare floor so that it can slide if necessary and the blankets give your neck the lift it needs to maintain its natural curve instead of being flattened to the floor.
- Start with a stack of two folded blankets. Come into Plow Pose with your back and shoulders on the blankets and your head on the floor.
- From Plow Pose, bend your elbows and bring your hands onto your back with your fingertips facing upward. The hands should come about mid-back.
- Keep your elbows shoulder-width apart. Do not allow them to splay out to either side.
- Lift your feet up off the floor toward the ceiling, either one at a time or together if the abdominals are strong enough.
- Once you raise the legs, don't turn your head to the side to look around the room, since you can injure your neck. Keep your gaze upwards and your neck straight.
- Lift up through the balls of your feet.
- Move your hips toward the front of the room and your feet toward the back of the room to straighten the body. The correct alignment is with the hips over the shoulders and feet over the hips. Ask your teacher or a friend to help you determine if your legs are perpendicular to the floor.
- Stay in the pose for up to 10 breaths.
- To come out, bring your feet back over your head to come through Plow Pose.
- Roll out from Plow slowly.
The alignment of your legs and torso when you are in the full pose is key. Very often, students do shoulderstand with their butts sticking out and their feet over their foreheads instead of over their hips. This throws the whole pose off. To avoid this problem, tuck your shoulder blades firmly onto your back and make sure your heels stay over your hips.
Modifications and Variations
Need a Modification?
If you elbows want to move out towards the sides of your mat, try using a looped strap around the upper arms to keep them shoulder-width apart. Measure the length of the strap ahead of time against your shoulders and slide it onto your upper arms before you enter plow pose.
Up for a Challenge?
Safety and Precautions
Avoid this pose if you have high blood pressure, , detached retina, recent dental bone grafts, or another condition where you should not allow your head to be lower than your heart. Do not do this pose if you have a neck injury or condition.
Using the folded blankets helps prevent the neck from being forced into an extremely flexed position, which can result in muscle strain or the growth of bone spurs. In the worst case, you can get an injury to one of the cervical disks or even a neck fracture if you have osteoporosis.
Turning your neck during this pose risks and injury and should be avoided at all times. If you don't use blankets or other supports, do not bring your body fully vertical.
Video: How to do Sarvangasana - Shoulder Stand
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