Salamba Sarvangasana, in the photo: Jesse Golden
I’m sure all of you at one point or another have gone into a yoga pose called Salamba Sarvangasana or shoulder stand and not even known it. Of course it was probably when you were a child but either way hanging up side down can be very good for you.
Going upside down or as we say in yoga Inversions ,are one of my favorite parts of class. One because it usually means the hardest part of class is behind you and two it feels so good to let gravity and
the blood run the other way for once.Sarvangasana is a cooling pose known for calming the nervous system,balancing the endocrine system,reducing fluid retention and normalizing your elimination system. For all those amazing benefits she is nicknamed the queen of inversions.
Let’s break it down:
I recommend doing shoulder stand with a blanket under the tops of your shoulders ,especially if you are new to this pose.
Fold the blanket so that the rounded edge is directly under your neck. First you come into Halasana. So start lying down with your palms flat by your sides and slowly raise your legs up and over your head. Clasp your hands and draw your shoulder blades underneath you.Then you can bring your hands to your back and continue to draw your shoulder blades in towards your chest. Your elbows should be shoulder width apart and upper arms are parallel. Try and keep your legs straight and your inner thighs reaching towards the ceiling. Lengthen the sides of your waist and keep your throat soft. Whatever you do do not turn your head in this pose.Try and imagine your pubic bone and perineum lifting straight up to the ceiling.This will help you when going into Sarvangasana. Continue to press all ten fingers onto your upper
back, moving the entire back of the body to the front of the body.Then raise your legs straight up to the ceiling one leg at a time. Creating a srtaight line from your chin to sternum through your belly to your pubic bone all the way up to your toes .Remember this is a shoulder stand, not a neck stand so press the entire length of your upper outer arm into the blanket. Your focal point can either be your belly or your toes, either way just breath and let this magical pose do it’s job. Stay here for 5-10 breaths to feel completely replenished.As you practice more and more you can gradually increase the time so that you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes. Then just as you came up ,you will come down by slowly bringing your legs back to Halasana and pause.if you it feels comfortable you can bring your knees to ears for a couple seconds then carefully and slowly roll down one vertebrae at a time so that you are completely back onto the floor. I love doing the counter pose called fish (Matsyana) pose after shoulder stand. Bring your hands ,palms down onto the sides or underneath your body and arch your back up,coming to the top of your head.Stay for a coiuple breaths then lift up to come back ,lying flat onto your back.
There is a modification for all levels of students with any pose.Going upside down can be scary for some but take it slow and be patient with yourself.Get comfortable with halasana first then when you feel confident you can try Sarvagasana.If you are one of those people whose elbows splay out the the side then put a belt just above your elbows so that they stay inline with your shoulders.
However there are certain contradictions to this pose,if you are on your menstrual cycle,pregnant, have high blood pressure or any other medical ailments I would most likely suggest alternate poses. Viparita Karani (putting your feet up against the wall) is one of my favorite alternatives because you still get the benefits of an inversion but in a more supportive,relaxing and,restorative way.