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Yoga Exercise - Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)

The Shoulder Stand stimulates and rejuvenates your entire body. In this exercise, you build up both power and a new structure in your back and you relax tension in well-known stress areas like the neck and the lower back. The muscles of your lower back get stronger, the chest and shoulders can move more freely and the back gets straighter. The Shoulder Stand also stimulates the thyroid gland and is good for blood circulation in the chest, shoulders, upper back and the neck.

STEP 1: Lie down with your back on a Yoga Mat.

STEP 2: Your shoulders should lie on the edge and your head rests on the mat. Your legs are drawn in and still stand on the mat.

STEP 3: Lift your hips off the floor and bring your legs up, over and beyond your head.

STEP 4: At this point, lift your back and move your legs further beyond your head.

STEP 5: Straighten your spine and keep your back straight. Move your hands toward your back.

STEP 6: Place your arms against your upper back and try to place your hands as near as possible to the shoulder blades. Try to place your elbows at shoulder-width. If you cannot do this, put them at a somewhat wider distance from each other. If you want, you can use a belt to keep the arms together.

STEP 7: Push your back upwards with your hands. You will get a force upwards coming from the seventh neck-vertebra.

Use your hands to push the back forward with the result that it gets narrower and straighter and there is an increased pressure on your shoulders. At the same time, this requires more power of the muscles of the lower back. Rest your weight on the back side of the shoulders. See to it that you do not bend the upper back and the chest.

STEP 8: Lift up your legs, one at a time, and see to it that the pelvis is placed straight over your back and your hands. Your legs are placed a little forward. Divide the weight of your legs between the hands and the shoulders. Build up strength in the upper lower back and give space to your chest and shoulder muscles.

A slight bending of the legs sees to it that the back remains straight and that the dynamism from the sacrum and the hip is maintained.

Wait until your shoulders start to relax more. Try to increase the right dynamism through the angle of the legs and via the hands.

STEP 9: After some time, try placing your arms a little lower in the direction of the shoulder blades on your back. See to it that the elbows do not stand too far apart. Breathe in and out quietly and try to find your balance.

Slowly bring your legs back to the mat, one by one, stretch out your arms (lengthwise), away from you and slowly roll your back downward.

Remark: For people who practice Yoga and have stiff muscles and a weak lower back, this Asana may be quite difficult. As a general rule, it may be said that healthy pain and discomfort are things that quickly disappear when the exercise is over.

There are three important power lines in the Shoulder Stand:
  • from the upper back inward and upward
  • from the chest upward
  • from the sacrum to the pelvis

Check these connections constantly and build up the exercise quietly. Never force yourself and never lose sight of the element of relaxation during your efforts.


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Article Comments
Friday 9th July 2004 at 9:05:41 PM  

I do not fully agree with the premise that a) Head stand b) Shoulder stand & c) Forwrd bend are together enough for perfect health. A school of thought which directs you to daily manipulate your spine in six ways seems more comrehensive approach viz.,
a) Tadasan / Parvatasan - Stretch
b) Head Stand / Shoulder Stand - Compression
c) Chakrasan - Sideward Bend
d) Bhujangasan / Dandasan / Supta Vajrasan - Backward Bend
e) Paschimottanasan / Halasan / Yogamudra - Forward Bend
f) Uttan Vakrasan / Matsyendrasan -Twist
can together give you good health.
Active manipulation of abdominal Organs and Glands through preparatory Pranayam like Kapalabhati and Shuddhi Kriyas like Jala Neti should also be included in daily practice by a beginner who has limited goal of achieving good health.

Friday 5th October 2007 at 12:03:28 PM  

I agree with the previous poster and wanted to add a thought regarding alignment of sarvangasana. It was widely thought that the body should be perpendicular to the floor while practicing this asana. Now, however, many yogis suffer from neck pain and it has been widely accepted that there should be a slight bend at the hips in this pose with, of course, the spine still straight (not swayed or arched in any way).

yogesh rana
Friday 19th November 2010 at 8:06:11 AM  

thanx for giving this information

Yoga Resources
Sunday 30th January 2011 at 3:01:19 PM  

The video''s are cool.

My only comment is that, I face some difficulty with my stomach and chest getting in the way when switching from shoulder stand (Sarvangasana)to plough pose (Halasana). I sometimes feel that being big chested (including big tummy) makes it a little bit challenging.

Monday 30th May 2011 at 7:20:42 AM  

The inverted poses should be avoided by anyone who has a thyroid condition. Think thyroidheart disease, thyroid eye conditions.. Hypothyroid and bradycardia, hyperthyroid tachycardia and AF. Avoid all inverts.

Saturday 2nd July 2011 at 10:17:17 AM  

I agree about the difficulty with this post due to having a big chest. I really like the stretch I get but it is very uncomfortable do to the large bust. Any alterations?

Thursday 11th August 2011 at 6:13:11 PM  

Thanks for clear instructions and visual animations!

Tuesday 7th February 2012 at 3:47:08 AM  

A U.S. doctor has just published a book warning of the dangers of carrying out the shoulder stand and plough and other poses where the neck is very bent like this. Many injuries to the arteries are caused by these poses, which can lead to fatal stroke. Proceed with caution and under the guidance of a properly qualified and experienced instructor!

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