Shoulderstand  -Salamba Sarvangasana

Step by Step

  • Lie on your back with your upper back on a sturdy folded blanket. Your head is resting on the mat, so the blanket ends in the hollow of your neck. The purpose of the blanket is to decrease the stretch in the back of your neck, and to keep the back of your neck from flattening/stretching too much.
  • Your legs are outstretched, or if your stomach muscles are a little weak you can have your knees bend. Arms are next to your body with the palms down.
  • On an exhale push your lower back into the floor and on an inhale lift your legs up, while you press your arms and palms into the floor. Sweep your legs over your head, and use that momentum to curl the hips up and off the floor too. Roll on your back, bringing the weight towards your upper back and head.
  • Bend your elbows and place your palms on your back to help support the body.. Stretch your legs up towards the ceiling. Now you are balancing on your shoulders and both your elbows. Draw your elbows in towards each other, and walk your hands up your back, towards the upper back to help lift as much of your spine off the floor as possible.
  • The most important is to have a straight back, to firm the upper back into your chest. If you notice that your upper back rounds by having your legs straight up towards the ceiling, you can lower your legs a little more towards the floor over your head, which will help you to straighten your back, open your chest and draw your shoulder blades in. Beginners can stay there.
  • When your legs are straight, firm the tailbone towards your pubis and slightly roll the thighs towards each other. Bring your feet over your hips. To protect your neck keep the weight more in the arms. Move your thighs away from your face a little, so that there is not too much pressure on the back of your neck.
  • Relax your face and throat, gaze at your chest and breathe in your belly. You can start by staying in this pose for 30 seconds, adding 10 seconds each day until you build up to 3-5 minutes.
  • To come out, lower your legs to the floor until about a 45-degree angle. Then roll your spine slowly and carefully back to the floor (with knees bent for beginners), eventually placing your feet on the floor. Experienced students can keep their legs straight. As you lower your legs to the floor, you could lift your head if that feels better for your back.

Beginners tips

  • Be aware of the position of your elbows - roll your upper arms outwards to prevent your elbows from splaying out to the sides.
  • Rather than keeping your hands on your hips and allowing your hips to sink into your hands, keep your core engaged to help lift your hips a little higher and to allow your hands to walk further up your back for additional support.

Benefits

  • Stretches the shoulders and neck. 
  • Cooling, calming, quietens the nervous system.
  • Reduces fluid retention in the legs and feet Regulates and normalises elimination. 
  • The thyroid and para-thyroid are nourished with blood.
  • Reduces fatigue and can help you to improve your sleep Improves digestion.

Watch out for

  • Keep your gaze straight - don't attempt to turn your head as there is too much pressure on the neck to accommodate that kind of movement in this pose.
  • Do not attempt this pose if you have any type of neck injury.

Variations

  • Variations can be explored with the leg positions - for example scissoring the legs slowly backwards and forwards, or opening the legs out to the sides.
  • Bringing the legs into Lotus position can be achieved by externally rotating the thighs and slowly bending one knee, bringing the outer ankle against the inner thigh of the opposite leg, and then doing the same on the other side.