Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) Or Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulder stand)
Sarva + Anga + Asana
An asana which works on all the parts of the body
Mother of all the asanas
Shoulders, neck, spine, vertebral column & muscles of torso
The body weight is borne by only the shoulders; the neck is free of any strain
Body (apart from neck & head) is more or less perpendicular to the floor
- Lie down on your back
- Your arms, resting by the side of your body
- Exhale slowly, use your abdominal area to press your lower back firmly against the floor. In the process, raise your legs upto at 900; wait for few seconds with normal breathing
- Exhale and again use your abdominal strength as well as hip flexibility to get your legs above your head, almost parallel to the floor as if you are about to do Halasana (your feet are off the floor)
- Support your back with your palms; the palms should be firmly pushed against your back, which is just above the floor; roll your shoulders in and fix your shoulder blades firmly on the floor; wait for few seconds with normal breathing
- This will most probably be the Viprit Karni position where hips would be hanging outside instead of being aligned to the rest of the body and the weight of the body will be supported by the elbows, forearms, and wrists. Ideally, this should be a very comfortable position and you do get a lot of benefits of Sarvangasana by performing this posture alone
- If possible, start sliding your palms downwards towards back of your neck by pushing it firmly against your body; each palm should be moved one step at a time; the aim is to bring the chest to the chin to create chin lock (definitely not chin to the chest). Chin lock should not strain the throat area but should be performed softly. In the process, also try to bring your elbows close to each other
- Once, you have secured your final position in Sarvangasana, roll your shoulders in (close to each other- one at a time) and lock it against the floor; this movement will help shift your body weight on through the shoulders instead of the neck which is a common mistake while performing this asana
- The feet, during the holding of the posture, should be parallel to the floor (pointing the feet up will result in contraction of the legs and hence prevent free drainage of blood from the legs)
- Once in the final posture, use the support of your shoulders on the floor and the strength of your core to further lengthen your spine towards the ceiling, as if, you are stretching each vertebra away from each other, thereby, lubricating the discs in between
Getting out of the postures
- Slightly release your hips
- Slide your palms towards your hips, slide your body down and allow your body to slowly rest to the floor
- This process should be gradual and controlled; in fact, if you have a strong core, you should use your core (without any arm support) to bring your body down to the floor in a controlled manner
Do not move or adjust the position of your head post the initial placement – be it in the process of getting into the posture or in the posture or releasing the posture. Moving it will cause strain your neck muscles.
One has to specifically train the abdominal muscles to allow movement in and out of the posture
Timing & Breathing
Initially attempt holding the posture for 20-30 seconds. Gradually, increase the duration to a minute and then to five minutes, to receive optimum benefits of Sarvangasana. Breathing can be normal or deep but not stressed
Empowering the practice
Using Ujjayi breathing as well as Khechari mudra adds more value to the practice
Practice Immediately After Sarvangasana
It is important to practice Halasana as well as Matsyasana immediately after Sarvangasana to neutralize the effect of blood flow as well as release the tension from neck area, in case, it was caused during the practice.
You can also practice your pranayama and meditation immediately after Sarvangasana
Sedentary life style and emotional stress are believed to be the leading causes of thyroid
The placement of the neck in Sarvangasana helps direct abundant blood flow to nourish the thyroid gland, thereby, improves the efficiency and the functioning of the said gland.
This posture helps circulate blood in opposite direction, thereby, removing lot of sluggishness in terms of blood circulation; slowing down the heart beat; enhancing the abdominal breathing, in turn, calming down the mind and hence the emotional stress. In this way, this asana helps deal with lot of stress related psycho somatic issues.
During the holding of the posture, take your attention to the throat region, inhale and exhale with focus on your throat region. This will vitalize the thyroid gland.
Recommended for Sedentary Lifestyle
Desk bound living, be it, kids at school, office goers or home bound individuals, keep the lower part of the body in almost a locked in position. As a result, the blood circulation to that area becomes sluggish, giving birth to a host of problems. Sarvangasana, when performed even for few minutes in the evening after office hours, can help drain out the blood from the lower extremities and rejuvenate the functioning of these areas.
Stimulates Parathyroid Gland
Parathyroid gland is activated during the practice of Sarvangasana which ensures efficient functioning of all the areas connected such as, normal bone growth and regeneration etc.
Helps abdominal breathing throughout the day
Sarvangasana automatically works on abdominal breathing and encourages it throughout the day, even though one is not making a conscious effort to do so.
Widely recommended for Menopausal and Pre-menopausal balance
It is believed that Sarvangasana because of its inversion position, especially with ‘chin-lock’, stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands which secretes hormones that regulates one’s metabolism. Not only that, the inversion position gives a good massage to the reproductive areas thereby eliminating lot of sluggishness and rejuvenating it with oxygenated blood to increase its functionality.
Works on maintaining Hormonal Balance
Sarvangasana being an inversion posture stimulate pituitary and thyroid glands which, in turn help maintain hormonal balance.
Helps drain lymph
The fluid in our body has a downward orientation because of gravitational pull as our body is in upright position for a longer span of our life. Inversion helps drain the lymph from lower body.
Helps in case of piles
Because of gravitational pull and earthward orientation, a lot of material is accumulated in different pockets of the body, around spinster muscles in this case. Inversion helps drain it out and thereby brings relief to the people suffering from piles.
Downward force of gravity can help one control varicose veins, for the simple reason, that Sarvangasana and the related postures can help drain blood and excess fluid from the lower extremities as well as the abdominal areas in the lower part of the body, making it an excellent practice for varicose veins.
Performing this posture independently or even with the support of the wall can help one reduce or remove swelling of the feet. Pregnant woman can benefit a lot from this posture as it will not only remove the swelling from their legs which is common during pregnancy, but at the same time, improve the blood flow to the reproductive area where the fetus is located.
Works on Digestive System
Sarvangasana practice helps stimulate digestion as well as assimilation of food
Recommended for High Blood Pressure
As the blood starts accumulating in the chest area, the heart beat begins to slow down. This leads to calmness of mind and body. The parasympathetic system is activated, which is required in case of high blood pressure. Also, the positioning of posture brings slight pressure to the carotid nerve, which in turn, helps reduce blood pressure. Hence, people with slightly high blood pressure can perform this posture safely. However, one with excessively high blood pressure should avoid this posture.
Works on wrinkles and hair
Downward flow gives an automatic massage to facial area with increased blood flow. This works like a natural facial for the practitioner. Hatha Yoga Pradipika goes to the extent of mentioning that, ‘After six months of practice, grey hair and wrinkles become inconspicuous.’
Improves Exchange of Oxygen and
The placing of diaphragm changes with the inversion of Sarvangasana. It now comes below abdominal organs due to inversion compared to upright position where it would be above abdominal area. This tends to put slight pressure (positive) on inhalation and exhalation, thereby expanding the tiny alveoli (where the oxygen and carbon di oxide exchange takes place) and improves the functioning of that area. The improved functioning has a great impact on overall wellbeing.
Displacement of the abdominal organs (visceroptosis) and prolapsed uterus
This inversion position of Sarvangasana helps correct the above conditions.
Improving the functionality of ENT
The downward flow of blood in Sarvangasana increases the blood flow to the ENT areas and helps improve the functioning of these organs.
The particular type of positioning helps accumulate blood in the throat and chest area. As a result, the heart rate slows down within few minutes after the assumption of the posture, abdominal breathing is activated to its fullest and mind becomes calm and thoughts reduced.
This is an amazing experience to perform pranayama immediately after this posture.
Preparing for Sarvangasana
- For people who find this posture really difficult, one of the ways is to perform pavanmuktasana in which both the thighs are resting on the chest and then roll slightly over to support the lower back with the palms and then get into the position
- If one is able to perform Halasana, it is best to start training with Halasana in the beginning to prepare for Sarvangasana. With Halasana, one learns to balance and bear the weight or load of the body on the shoulders. It brings about freedom to the neck and shoulders, which shows the way to go into Salamba Sarvangasana through Ekpada Sarvangasana. Not only that, Halasana also makes gluteal muscles flexible for it to be lifted up in Sarvangasana position. The memory of the usage of muscles in Halasana allows one to attend a perfect Sarvangasana.
- One can also lie down with legs up on the wall and hips on the floor and against the wall in viprit karni mudra, bend the knees to place the feet against the wall; use the pressure of the feet against the wall to squeeze the hips; tuck your tummy in to lift the hips off the floor. Once stable in that position, raise one leg up, push the pelvis away from the wall, maintain the body weight and balance in the middle and then use your core muscles to raise the other leg up as well.
- Half-halasana against the wall
- Lie down on the floor with your head around 2 feet away from the wall
- With a swing movement, bring your feet on the wall
- Start walking your feet up on the wall and the palms (which are pressed against lower back) down towards the neck to straighten your spine
- Now get one leg off the wall and perpendicular to the floor and then the other leg
- Using chair as prop:
- Perform half halasana with the chair
- Raise one leg up, stabilize the position and then raise the other leg up using the core and the hip muscles.
Sarvangasana as a substitute as well as a practice for Sirshasana
Sarvangasana is one of the preparatory postures for Sirshasana. Trying to perform Sirshasana directly without routing through Sarvangasana may create more harm than good. In fact, Sarvangasana practice covers many benefits of Sirshasana. Hence, one can continue to reap most of the benefits of Sirshasana by performing Sarvangasna.
- Not to be performed during menstruation or advance stages of pregnancy
- People with heart disease should not perform this
- One suffering from enlarged thyroid should avoid this practice
- One with weak blood vessels in the eyes should avoid this practice
- Sufferer of arteriosclerosis and cerebral thrombosis are not supposed to perform this
- > Avoid in case of slipped disc or osteoporosis
- Sarvangasana should be performed on an empty stomach
- One should not perform any stimulating posture such as standing postures, back bending postures or intensive series of postures like Suryanamaskar after Sarvangasana