Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)

Asana Technique

My father is a 59 years old a westerner who has recently taken to yoga. He talks of his favourite teachers who he goes to for when he is feeling the need for quite meditative yoga, energy boosting yoga or damn right difficult Yoga. Now we have to remember as I stated above he is a 59 year old westerner who didn’t grow up crouching or sitting on the floor and in recent year has let his physic go as more knee problems took over his body. Difficult yoga for my father is a lot of yoga. He once described this particular Asana as “frightening”. “Hannah” he said “I thought I was going to be knocked out by the mountain of flesh that started to roll towards me!” He was talking of the shoulder stand and of his belly descending towards his head to suffocate him!

So, how to make this less frightening! The shoulder stand is actually a resting pose but many muscles, mainly the core and positioning of the scapular and arms and neck are important here.

Technique getting into the pose:

– Lie flat on you back, feet together with hands by sides.

– Using core strength and arms pressed into the mat raise legs and straight up as you exhale.

– Half way up move you hands to the lower back supporting the lumbar area of the spine to shoot the legs straight up.

– From the Cervical Vertebrae to the tips of the toes this should be straight up.

– Makes sure the Bandha (abdominal lock) is tightly locked and breathe deeply through the lungs.

Technique getting out of the pose:

– Release hands flat by your sides.

– Inhale slowly vertebrae by vertebrae lower your body down to the mat, bending in half at the hips.

– Feet tilt back towards you face.

– Once the back is flat on the mat, exhale and lower the legs straight down slowly and with control.

Tips:

– Avoid putting any pressure on the cervical vertebrae by tightly retracting the scapular and supporting the back properly.

– Bring the elbows in as close as they can to carry and support weight.

– Tuck the tailbone in.

– Breath through the lungs using Ujjiy breath.

Benefits:

– This ansana brings all the blood to the brain and heart and should ultimately slow down the heart rate bringing fresh oxygen to the vital organs.

 Limitations:

– Belly size should not matter but boob size might!

– Flexibility of the scapular.

– Menses

Modification:

– Try Halasana (Plough pose) although the full pose also maybe too advanced initially. Build up to be able to rest your toes on the floor behind the head and initially support the back (avoid stretched back arms and hands interlocked behind the back)

– If at first only the backside is able to be lifted slowly work up to lifting the whole of the back off the mat.

– If headache or neck pain arises raise the legs until parallel to the floor.

– If painful still in the lower back, bend the knees.

Muscles to strengthen and stretch to benefit pose:

– Open up the chest and work on retracting the scapular. Bind the hands behind the back look back and squeeze pushing hands away from backside. Prasita Padottanasana (Spread legs Intense stretch pose)

– Core strength is needed to pull up into pose and hold still. Practise, high planks, low planks and dolphin pose.