Salamba Sarvangasana ~ Shoulder Stand

This pose can be quite difficult and scary for people. For some, anytime we go upside down fear is exposed. Add to that the fear that you are putting a lot of pressure on the neck and many simply stay away from this pose. So, why would you want to do it? There are many benefits to sarvangasana: It helps to stimulate the thyroid and parathyroid; helps to reduce fatigue mild depression and stress; stretches the shoulders and neck; tones abs, legs and buttocks. Also, being upside down in any position gives your heart a bit of a break and brings more blood flow to the brain.

Done correctly, you are standing on your shoulders rather than your neck. Start off lying on the floor with the arms extended alongside the body and the knees bent. Bring the knees in toward the chest and begin to lift the pelvis and back from the floor keeping knees bent at first. At this point you can bring the knees to the forehead in order to adjust your elbows if they happen to be flaring out from the side bodies. Draw should blades firmly together and bring hands to the low back. Slowly begin to extend the legs upward. For some, the legs can extend straight up over the shoulders. You will press the upper arms and shoulders firmly into the floor here, taking pressure off of the neck.  A good way to practice is to place a folded blanket or towel underneath the shoulder blades, so the top of the blanket is at the top of the shoulders. This allows a little more space between the neck and the floor.

There are modifications to salamba sarvangasana. One way to modify is to make more of a V with the legs, rather than extending fully, as shown here:

Another way to modify is to walk the legs up a wall:

Or even simply have the legs up the wall as shown here:

Full salamba sarvangasana should only be taken when you have a healthy neck and normal blood pressure. This is a more intermediate to advanced posture and it’s always wise to perform with a teacher to start.


About Reena Davis

I am a Neurolinguistic Programming Master Practitioner, Thai Yoga Massage Practitioner and Certified Yoga Teacher as well as a student of all things spiritual.
This entry was posted in asana, Pose and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Salamba Sarvangasana ~ Shoulder Stand

  1. pflead73 says:

    can spondylitis patients do this exercise?

    • Typically you should be okay, but it’s always best to check in with your health practitioner first. It would also be a good idea to practice first with a qualified yoga teacher. Thanks for your question 🙂

  2. pflead73 says:

    Neither I know any health practitioner nor I know any yoga teacher(except u)…:P thanx neway 🙂

    • In that case I would definitely stick to a modification, perhaps even start with legs on the wall and then begin to walk to feet up the wall to where you are comfortable. You should never feel pain in yoga so any discomfort back off. If you are already fairly active walking the feet up will likely be okay. Just really pay attention to your body and remember no weight in the neck!

  3. amoonfull says:

    i love this pose. it’s been one of my favorite things to do on a regular basis since i was about 10. it’s very comfortable. i feel super relaxed. now, after discovering yoga, im able to perfect the position and feel even better for doing it since i know the benefits!

  4. I like is pose and I practice it regularly with my students.. it has a lot of benefits, like you explain.. thanks..

  5. Pingback: Halasana ~ Plough Pose | Yoga With Maheshwari

  6. thowling says:

    Thanks for explaining the pose meticulously, and also posting pictures of modifications. I like shoulderstand, but it’s not every day that I am able to do it; sometimes it just doesn’t feel right for my neck, so I go for legs up the wall instead. The asana practice becomes very different when we learn to honor our bodies.

    • Yes, for me it’s really the most important part of asana. We can start to incorporate many of the philosophical teachings like detachment and non-harming when we honor where we are on any given day. Thanks for visiting and commenting! Namaste

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