Question of the Month: You talk about the importance of adding shoulderstand to one’s practice. Why is it important and are there variations to make it easier for me to practice it?

Beneficial Effects of Sarvangasana. Information taken from, Light on Yoga, by B.K.S. Iyengar

The importance of Sarvangasana cannot be over-emphasized. It is one of the greatest boons conferred on humanity by our ancient sages. Sarvangasana is the Mother of asanas. As a mother strives for harmony and happiness in the home, so this asana strives for the harmony and happiness of the human system.

It is a panacea for most ailments. There are several endocrine organs or ductless glands in the human system which bathe in blood, absorb the nutriments from the blood and secrete hormones for the proper functioning of a balanced and well-developed body and brain. If the glands fail to function properly, the hormones are not produced as they should be and the body starts to deteriorate.

Amazingly enough many of the asanas have a direct effect on the glands and help them to function properly. Sarvangasana does this for the thyroid and parathyroid glands that are situated in the neck region, since the body is inverted the venous blood flows to the heart without any strain by force of gravity. Healthy blood is allowed to circulate around the neck and chest. As a result, persons suffering from breathlessness, palpitation, asthma, bronchitis, and throat ailments get relief. As the head remains firm in this inverted position, and the supply of the blood to it is regulated by the firm chinlock, the nerves are soothed and headaches -even chronic ones – disappear.

Continued practice of this asana eradicates common colds and other nasal disturbances. Due to the soothing effect of the pose on the nerves, those suffering from hypertension, irritation, shortness of temper, nervous breakdown and insomnia are relieved.

The change in bodily gravity also affects the abdominal organs so that the bowels move freely and constipation vanishes. As a result the system is freed from toxins and one feels full of energy.

The asana is recommended for urinary disorders and uterine displacement, menstrual trouble, piles and hernia. It also helps to relieve epilepsy, low vitality and anemia.

It is no over-statement to say that if a person regularly practices Sarvangasana he will feel new vigor and strength, and will be happy and confident. New life will flow into him, his mind will be at peace and he will feel the joy of life.

After a long illness, the practice of this cycle activates the abdominal organs and relieves people suffering from stomach and intestinal ulcers, severe pains in the abdomen and colitis. People suffering from high blood pressure should not attempt Salamba Sarvangasana I unless they do Halasana first and can stay in it for not less than 3 minutes.

Additional benefits:
• Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
• Stimulates 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 infertility

Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) Variation

Salamba Sarvangasana can be a difficult pose for many students. Here is a variation that practitioners of all levels can practice.

    Photo 1: Lift hips, place one or two blocks under your hips. Make sure blocks are placed evenly under the hips and are not tilted.

    Photo 2: Release your buttocks onto the blocks, draw your shoulders under and lift your heart. (You are now in a supported variation of Setu Bandha Sarvangasana.)

    Photo 3: From this Setu Bandha variation, bring one leg up at a time and come into this variation of Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand).

    There should not be pain in the lumbar spine (lower back), cervical spine (neck), or pressure in the back of the head. The face should be relaxed and the eyes soft.

    If your hamstrings are tight, you may practice this near a wall resting the heels on the wall. In the beginning, do not stay more than 5 minutes. As you progress, you may stay longer.

      Additional Variations of Salamba Sarvangasana

    Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulderstand) chair variation

    Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulderstand) wall support variation

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About EssentialYoga Studio

Roberta has been practicing yoga since 1988 and has been teaching yoga since 1994. She has trained under master yoga teachers Swami Padmananda, Patricia Walden, Manouso Manos, Father Joe Pereira, Zoë Stewart, Karin Stephan, Liz Owen and others. She continues to study with her Iyengar teachers, Patricia Walden and Peentz Dubble. Roberta has studied yoga at the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Memorial Institute in Pune, India during June 2011, February 2014 and attended Abhijata's intensive in Pune, India December 2016. Roberta is currently enrolled in Peentz Dubble's two year Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training Program. Additionally, Roberta completed training and certification with Elise Browning Miller as 'Yoga for Scoliosis' instructor. She completed a 500 hour Hatha Yoga Certification program with AURA Wellness Center and is registered with Yoga Alliance as an E-RYT 500. She has been a Certified Meditation Teacher since June 2007 and has been an Usui Reiki Practitioner since 1989. Roberta's Personal Practice Philosophy: Health issues have changed and deepened my practice. You will see many photos of me using a variety of props. On days I don't feel well, instead of saying, "I can't practice today", Iyengar Yoga has taught me to say, "How can I practice today".
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3 Responses to Question of the Month: You talk about the importance of adding shoulderstand to one’s practice. Why is it important and are there variations to make it easier for me to practice it?

  1. Celia says:

    Thank you. I find you website VERY helpful to my practice of yoga. THANK YOU, THANK YOU for sharing your knowledge.

  2. Jenny Lux says:

    You have some very helpful information on here, thank you for sharing. I just wanted to alert you to the fact that you are missing some words from Iyengar in the quote above. It should read: ‘Sarvangasana does this for the thyroid and parathyroid glands that are situated in the neck region, since due to the firm chinlock their blood supply is increased. Further, since the body is inverted…’ and so on. Namaste from a yoga student in NZ!

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