How to do Sarvangasana Yoga (Shoulder Stand Pose)
In Sanskrit, sarva means ‘entire’ or ‘whole’ and anga means ‘body’, sarvangasana means whole body asana, also known as ‘salamba sarvangasana’ means ‘supported shoulder stand pose’. There is also another variation of this pose which is called ‘niralamba sarvangasana’ which means ‘un-supported shoulder stand pose’, it has been discussed below. Sarvangasana is one of the best poses and considered as the mother of all asanas due to the range of health benefits it offers. Due to the inversion pose, it brings blood circulation and energy to the brain and increase the controlling power of the nervous system. It improves the vital immune, digestive, and endocrine systems.
This asana is one of the best asanas for thyroid gland situated in the neck. It is said that a healthy thyroid gland helps you to live healthy and young. While doing this asana, the blood stores in the neck, and blood is forcibly flowing to the thyroid gland and make it healthy.
However, this asana is not as easy as it looks, first of all, your neck and shoulder muscles need to flexible and stress free, else, you will feel strain or have cramps or spasm in the neck. It is good to do some neck movement exercise first. You also need to control your forever running mind, because your body needs to be in sync with your mind to lift the entire body up without hurting yourself.
Sarvangasana is one of the best and most important asanas, it covers all the body systems and provide huge amount of benefit. In this asana, your body weight rests on your shoulders while body lifts straight up in one line. Sarvangasana is equally effective as shirshasana, however, it is safer and easier to perform. This asana is especially beneficial for the women. It helps with their reproductive system and improves the functioning of the ovaries.
Steps to do Sarvangasana
Lie down, inhale slowly, and while inhaling, contract the abdomen and slowly raise both the legs to the 30, 60, and then 90 degree angle from the floor. Concentrate on getting the legs, waist and the back in the 90 degree angle with the ground in a straight line pointing to sky. In this process, take the help of your arms, keep the half of the arm (upto elbow) on the ground, and support your waist with the rest of the half arms, or place your hands on the back rib. Press your chin against the chest creating a chin lock, keep eyesight fix on the toes, and continue normal breathing.
Try to hold the weight of your body on the spines, and not on the neck. You can use a stack of two or three folded blankets under the shoulders to support your neck. The hands should rest on the kidney area to support the weight of the body. Your hands will continuously slip during the process, keep adjusting it as per your comfort. Watch for the body leaning to one side.
Releasing the asana position is also equally important. You need to do it slowly and carefully, without any sudden movement. Take your hands off from the waist and put it on the ground by pushing it from palms. You are still in the pose; now gradually lower the back on the floor, vertebrae by vertebrae, by bringing it to 60, 30, and 180 degree.
In the beginning, you may be able to hold the final pose for a minute or two. You can gradually do it up to 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and 20 minutes.
For beginners who are not able to lift the body upside down comfortably, take the help of a wall, keep the body perpendicular to the wall, making a 90 degree angle, the buttocks almost touching the wall. Place your back and head comfortably on the floor. Bend the knees, and push the feet firmly against the wall and lift the body (pelvic) slowly by raising your back up to a vertical position. Keep the neck and shoulders relaxed. This practice will help to make the the neck and shoulder muscles strong. You can also try to lift one leg straight up and one on the wall. Once you are comfortable, you can do the asana as mentioned above by assuming the full shoulder stand pose. Do not strain the neck and shoulders.
Variation 2. – Eka Pada Sarvangasana
As name suggests, this asana is done with the one leg in the Sarvangasana position, and other on the ground. In this variation, you basically try to touch the ground from one leg while keeping one leg straight.
Once in the complete sarvangasana, lower one of your legs towards the floor and try to touch it, do not strain. Focus on the pose and maintain it. Make sure the other leg remains in the upright position without any movement. It will be advisable to initially use the chair, as a base, to take one foot down. Lower your leg and try to touch the seat of chair, it will be easier than touching the ground which is further. Bring your leg over the midline of your body, do not allow your pelvis level to drop down.
In case, you are not using the chair, you can lower your leg up to 90 degrees angle, and gradually all the way to the floor or as far as you can. Your spine should be in the upright position during the entire practice.
Remember, this is an expert variation and need complete command on the proper sarvangasana first. Do not try it for the sake of trying it.
Variation 3. – Niralamba Sarvangasana – Unsupported Shoulder Stand
As the name suggests, this asana is held in the sarvangasana without the support of the hands & shoulders. Come into the sarvangasana as usual, and bring both of the arms overhead along with the ears, in line with the upright legs. Reach up strongly through the legs. Hold this position as much as you can then again take the support of shoulders.
If you want, take both the arms behind your head outstretched lying on the ground. Focus on maintaining the upright position.
Finally, once you feel expert and comfortable in doing sarvangasana, you can play with it, in many ways, by moving your legs and arms in the different direction and making different poses.
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- Increase oxygen and blood to the head area i.e. brain, eyes, ears, nose and throat, and tranquilize the mind.
- Reduce emotional and mental stress.
- The lung capacity is increased.
- Respiratory system is improved.
- Detoxification leads to youthfulness.
- Help to balance the circulatory, digestive, reproductive, respiratory and nervous system.
- Neck flexibility is increased.
- This asana should not be performed by people suffering from high blood pressure, heart problems, cervical spondylitis, slipped disc, and headache.
- Should not be practiced during menstruation and pregnancy.
[highlight]It is advisable to perform any asana in the supervision of a qualified yoga instructor.[/highlight]