Salamba Sarvangasana Supported Shoulderstand
salamba = with support sarva = all anga = limb.
Type of Pose: Inversion
• Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
• Stimulates the thyroid and prostate glands and abdominal organs
• Stretches the shoulders and neck
• Tones the legs and buttocks
• Improves digestion
• Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause • Alleviates hypertension and urinary disorders
• Reduces fatigue and alleviates insomnia
• Therapeutic for asthma, infertility, and sinusitis
• High blood pressure
• Neck injury
• Pregnancy: If experienced with this pose, can continue to practice it late into pregnancy. Don’t take up the practice of Sarvangasana after you become pregnant.
• Salamba Sarvangasana is considered to be an intermediate to advanced pose. Do not perform this pose without sufficient prior experience or unless with the supervision of an experienced instructor. Once in the posture, do not move the head.
Step by Step
1. Fold one or two firm blankets into rectangles measuring about 1 foot by 2 feet, and stack them one on top of the other. You can place a sticky mat over the blankets to help the upper arms stay in place while in the pose. Then lie with the shoulders on the blanket – parallel to one of the longer edges, with your head on the floor.
2. Lay your arms (palms down) on the floor alongside your torso, then bend your knees and set your feet against the floor with the heels close to the sitting bones. Exhale, press your arms against the floor, and push your feet away from the floor, drawing your thighs into the front torso.
3. Continue to lift by curling the pelvis and then the back torso away from the floor, so that your knees come toward your face. Bend your elbows and draw them toward each other. Lay the backs of your upper arms on the blanket and spread your palms against the back. Raise your pelvis over the shoulders, so that the torso is relatively perpendicular to the floor. Walk your hands towards the shoulder blades without letting the elbows slide too much wider than shoulder width. Keeping the elbows close to the body keeps the chest expanded. Once you are up on the shoulders do not rotate the head. Keep the head aligned.
4. Inhale and straighten the legs and torso up toward the ceiling, bringing your thighs in line with your torso, perpendicular to the floor. Press your tailbone toward your pubis (slight pelvic tuck) and turn the upper thighs inward slightly. Adduct the thighs in toward each other. Press the heels up toward the ceiling. When the backs of the legs are fully lengthened, lift through the balls of the big toes so the inner legs are slightly longer than the outer. The aim is to have the spine straight. Move the shoulders back away from the ears to create space for the neck.
5. Soften the throat and tongue. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, and move the sternum toward the chin (chin lock). Keeping the chin perpendicular to the ground. Keep the bridge of your nose in line with the middle of the sternum. Press the backs of your upper arms and the tops of your shoulders actively into the blanket support, and try to lift the upper spine away from the floor. Gaze softly at your chest.
6. In the beginning stay in the pose for about 30 seconds. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds to your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Then continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in the pose. Again gradually add 5 to 10 seconds every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes.
7. To come down, exhale, bend your knees into your torso again, and roll your back slowly and carefully onto the floor, keeping the back of your head on the floor. Alternatively, proceed into Halasana.
Beginner’s Tip: Beginners’ elbows tend to slide apart and the upper arms roll inward, which sinks the torso onto the upper back, collapsing the pose (and potentially straining the neck). Use a sticky mat under the arms and come up with your elbows lifted on and secured by the sticky mat. Alternatively loop a strap (shoulder width) around the arms (behind the back).
Deepen the Pose: It’s common in this pose for students to press only the index finger sides of the hands against the back. Be sure to spread both palms wide against your back torso. Push in and up against the back ribs, especially with the ring fingers and pinkies. Periodically take your hands away from the back, press the shoulder blades in, and return your hands to the back a little closer to the head than they were before.
•Once the student has lifted into shoulderstand, take your hand in between their thighs and tell them the squeeze your hand, this will allow them to straighten up even more.
• Touch the student’s toes and have them stretch into your hand.
• Stand behind the student. Hug or clasp the legs around the thighs or the calves. Lift the student slightly. Using your feet, shimmy the student’s elbows in toward each other (slightly less than shoulder width apart if possible). This helps to bring the student’s weight over their shoulders, ensuring they are not putting pressure on the neck and helping to bring them higher into the posture. To release, gently lower the student, being careful of their neck.
•Watch for the body leaning to one side. Lengthen up through the side of the torso on that side; try to feel an even lengthening on both sides of the body.
•The legs leaning over the head. This can put tension on the neck, as well as pressure on the chest causing difficulty breathing. Open the chest, keep the pelvis in a slight tuck, and lengthen the front and back of the body up toward the sky. Engage the abdominal muscles, the deep back muscles, backs of the legs, and lastly the glutes.