[Pose Of the Week] Supported Shoulderstand Pose (Intermediate)

Supported Shoulderstand Pose is an intermediate-to-advanced level yoga pose with a number of wonderful benefits for both body and mind. Here are some tips for mastering the full pose…

If you are ready to move into full Shoulderstand Pose, you may wish to start out with this supported version. Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana) is often done with folded blankets under the shoulders to provide a bit of extra support and cushioning for your shoulders and elbows. However, you can also do the pose without the blankets – just make sure you are working on a non-slip surface such as a sticky mat, so that your elbows don’t slide or rotate outwards, putting pressure on your neck. This is an intermediate-to-advanced yoga pose, so you should make sure you are comfortable with the modified/beginner version before attempting this one.

Shoulderstand boasts and impressive range of benefits, both physical and mental, including strengthening and stretching the shoulders and neck, toning the legs and core, and stimulating the thyroid gland and internal organs. It is also thought to improve digestion, relieve menopausal symptoms, reduce fatigue, and relieve stress and mild depression. Shoulderstand Pose may also be helpful for those suffering from infertility or asthma and other respiratory issues.

Those with high blood pressure or any kind of neck injury should avoid this pose. You should also skip this one if you are experiencing diarrhea, or headache, or if you are menstruating. Do not do this pose after the first trimester of pregnancy.

Here’s How to Do Supported Shoulderstand Pose:

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.

Read more about Supported Shoulderstand Pose at YogaJournal.com


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