Shoulderstand Plus Plow Variations
Sanskrit Name: Sarvangasana (pronounced sar-van-GAHS-anna )
People who love shoulder stand really love it, and those who don't, really despise it. The difference between loving and loathing the pose often depends on whether you can create a clean vertical line with your body and not bend, slump, or tilt. A stable, vertical shoulder stand is easy, comfortable, and joyful, while a wobbly, crooked one is difficult, painful, and miserable.
Several factors contribute to an ability to stand straight up in the pose, and one of the most important is grounding your arms firmly behind you while keeping your chest open. To attain this position, you need flexibility in two muscles: the pectoralis major and the anterior deltoid. Learning to lengthen them—or to compensate for a lack of length in them—can transform the agony of a misaligned Shoulderstand into the ecstasy of a pose that is upright and true.
Breath: Deep Abdominal Breathing.
Keep the mouth closed with tongue resting on the roof of the mouth. Simply allow the breath to enter & release through the nostrils. Keep your awareness on the abdomen & notice how it starts to balloon & expand on the inhale. The exhale, the abdomen relaxes. Do not try & control the breath in anyway. Allow yourself to follow the journey of the breath so we connect the mind & body together into the present moment. Breath in to a count of 1-2-3 & breathe out to a count of 1-2-3.
Results: When you are fully in the present moment the mind no longer has power over you. This allows you to create a new reality for yourself rather than being conditioned by the old mind. Use your affirmation whilst holding the position.
The focus on the breath allows you to enter into the Alpha state which is a state where the brain waves are much slower than the usual waking state of Beta. Doing this consciously allows you to interrupt the neurological pathways within the brain that are causing negative blocks, emotions & behaviours.
- Step 1: Fold two or more 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 on the blankets with your shoulders supported (and parallel to one of the longer edges) and your head on the floor. Lay your arms 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.
- Step 2: Continue to lift by curling the pelvis and then the back torso away from the floor, so that your knees come toward your face. Stretch your arms out parallel to the edge of the blanket and turn them outward so the fingers press against the floor (and the thumbs point behind you). 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 of your torso. Raise your pelvis over the shoulders, so that the torso is relatively perpendicular to the floor. Walk your hands up your back (toward the floor) without letting the elbows slide too much wider than shoulder width.
- Step 3: Inhale and lift your bent knees toward the ceiling, bringing your thighs in line with your torso and hanging the heels down by your buttocks. Press your tailbone toward your pubis and turn the upper thighs inward slightly. Finally inhale and straighten the knees, pressing 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.
- Step 4: Soften the throat and tongue. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, and move the sternum toward the chin. Your forehead should be relatively parallel to the floor, your chin perpendicular. 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.
- Step 5: As a beginning practitioner 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 and 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes. To come down, exhale, bend your knees into your torso again, and roll your back torso slowly and carefully onto the floor, keeping the back of your head on the floor.
- Step 1: From Salamba Sarvangasana, exhale and bend from the hip joints to slowly lower your toes to the floor above and beyond your head. As much as possible, keep your torso perpendicular to the floor and your legs fully extended.
- Step 2: With your toes on the floor, lift your top thighs and tailbone toward the ceiling and draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis. Imagine that your torso is hanging from the height of your groins. Continue to draw your chin away from your sternum and soften your throat.
- Step 3: You can continue to press your hands against the back torso, pushing the back up toward the ceiling as you press the backs of the upper arms down, onto your support. Or you can release your hands away from your back and stretch the arms out behind you on the floor, opposite the legs. Clasp the hands and press the arms actively down on the support as you lift the thighs toward the ceiling.
- Step 4: Halasana is usually performed after Sarvangasana for anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. To exit the pose bring your hands onto your back again, lift back into Sarvangasana with an exhalation, then roll down onto your back, or simply roll out of the pose on an exhalation.
- 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
- Reduces fatigue and alleviates insomnia
- Therapeutic for asthma, infertility, and sinusitis
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). Before coming onto your blanket support, roll up a sticky mat and set it on the support, with its long axis parallel to the back edge (the edge opposite the shoulder edge). Then come up with your elbows lifted on and secured by the sticky mat.
To 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.
Avoid This Pose If:-
- High blood pressure
- Neck injury
- Pregnancy: If you are experienced with this pose, you can continue to practice it late into pregnancy. However, 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 you have the supervision of an experienced instructor. Some schools of yoga recommend doing Salamba Sirsasana before Salamba Sarvangasana, others vice versa. The instruction here assumes the former order.
Tweet This: MedYoga Shoulderstand Affirmation: “God’s peace now floods my being.”