Analysis of Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand)

Salamba Sarvangasana, the queen of asanas, is a basic inversion supine pose. In this pose the body is lifted up vertically, balanced on the shoulder, and the hands support the back with the help of proper breathing.

Salamba = To support, Sarva = All, Anga = Limbs

In this posture all limbs are engaged: the shoulders extending while the neck is flexed, and palms, elbows, neck, and back of the head should support the entire body weight.

Benefits of Salamba Sarvangasana:

  • Asanas with the head below the heart or feet above the heart bring harmony to the body and mind.
  • Helps reduce blood pressure
  • Improves lung function
  • Calms the nerves by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system
  • Decreases depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Eases fatigue
  • Improves immune function
  • Aids digestive disorders
  • Reduces anxiety, insomnia, and irritability
  • Activates throat Chakra that activates the abdominal organs
  • Helps the thyroid and parathyroid glands located in the neck region to function properly

Skeletal and Muscular analysis steps of how to get to the asana:

  1. Lie on your back
  2. Inhale – raise the legs upwards and lengthen the spine, and feel the upward-lifting action.
    Neck in deep flexion, Shoulders: externally rotate and in extension. Shoulders externally rotate and in extension, scapula adduction, downward rotation, elevation, glenohumeral joint external rotation, extension, adduction. Spine cervical flexion. Thoracic flexion. Lumbar – flexion while lifting the body up and when the body is in line the lumbar is in a natural extension.
    Muscular system: 
    • Use your core muscles by pulling your abdomen, engage your gluteus maximus and draw your thighs back slightly, swing your legs from the floor over your head, eccentric of the sternocleidomastoid muscle in the neck. Allow your weight to shift into your hands. Contract your erector spinae and quadratus lumborum to gently arch your back. Feet pointing towards the ceiling.
    • Arms pressed into the mat by engaging the posterior deltoids. In front of the chest muscles stretch and it produces reciprocal inhibition of your anterior portion of the deltoids. Teres major synergize this action.
      Contract the biceps and brachialis muscles to support your weight and expand your chest forward.
      Externally rotate your shoulders by activating your infraspinatus and teres minor muscles of your rotator cuff. Your posterior deltoids also assist in rotating your shoulders.
  3. Exhale – Support your back with your palm.
    Elbow flexion, forearm supination, wrist extension (moving toward flexion as the hands press into the back).
    Muscular system:
    Engage the supinator muscles of the forearms to press the outer edges of your palms into the back. Your biceps are also a supinator, so this action further aids to open your chest.
  4. With every exhalation try to lengthen your spine, and press your arms and elbows down.
    The palms, elbows, neck, and back of the head should support the entire body weight.
    Hip: Sacroiliac joint nutation. Hip neutral extension, adduction, neutral rotation.
    Knee extension. 
    Ankle in plantar flexion.
    Muscular system: 
    • Balance the actions of your gluteus maximus, quadratus lumborum, and erector spinae by activating your hip flexors and abdominals. A cue for contracting your hip flexors is to bring your legs forward slightly.
    • Then balance flexion and extension of your thighs so that your legs are held straight up in the air. This serves to stabilize your pelvis. Note how your abdominals connect your pelvis and your ribcage.
    • Gently engage your rectus abdominis to balance your back extensors and stabilize your spine.
    • Firmly contract your quadriceps to straighten your knees. Synergize this action and stabilize your knees by engaging your tensor fascia lata. This has the added effect of internally rotating your thighs and bringing your kneecaps back to a neutral position.
    • Make sure your legs do not come apart, this stimulates contraction of your abductor component and accesses the secondary action of your tensor fascia lata, internally rotating your thighs.
    • Squeeze your knees together to engage your adductor group, stabilizing your legs in the air. The most posterior of this group is your adductor magnus. This muscle also synergizes your gluteus maximus in extending your femurs.
    • Evert your ankles by contracting your peroneus longus and brevis muscles. Then balance this action by slightly inverting your ankles using your tibialis posterior. This combination of opposing forces creates a bandha that stabilizes your feet
    • Activate your tibialis anterior muscles to draw the tops of the feet toward your shins. Extend your toes. Then try flexing and adducting your big toes to deepen the foot arches. This engages your flexors hallucis longus and brevis and adductor hallucis. Your tibialis posterior also contributes to this (in addition to inverting and stabilizing your ankles).

Please avoid this posture if you have:

  • Menstruation
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problem
  • Weak internal organs like the spleen, liver, or kidney, or enlarged thyroid
  • Glaucoma
  • Detached retina