Shoulder Stand Done Right

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Salamba Sarvangasana (supported all body pose) or popularly known as shoulder stand is considered the “mother” of asanas. It has therapeutic benefit for every system in your body. That’s why it’s probably called “all body pose.”

If done incorrectly. it may cause damage to the cervical spine. I will attempt in a series of picture to illustrate the correct approach to this pose.

First the setup: you will need 4 blankets, a chair, a sticky mat, and a block. See below for the visual:

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Correct shoulder stand/halasana setup for beginners

On a sticky mat laid out flat, put the blankets at one end with the smooth edges facing the chair. Fold the sticky mat tail 2/3 over the blankets as seen in photo. Make sure the edges of the blankets are in one straight vertical plane. If you have the fringes out it will create unevenness in the base:

photo-14

Correct edges

photo-13

Incorrect edges

Lay on your back on top of the blankets and have your shoulder tops  1 to 1.5 inches (3-4 cm) from the edge of the blankets. 

Reach back and hold the bottom part of the legs of the chair, push the chair back until your arms are straight.

From this point NEVER TURN YOUR HEAD as you can damage the C7 part of your spine.

Pushing down with the elbows, swing your legs overhead until the feet reach the chair.

SS halasana

This is called Halasana (plow pose). Push the thighs up toward the ceiling until the legs are taut.

From here, straighten your arms behind you and hook your thumbs with the fingers pointed toward the ceiling, roll to the right side and tuck your left shoulder underneath. Then repeat right side. Do a few times until the skin of the shoulder is well underneath.

Support the back with the hands with the palm touching the flesh of the back (not cloth) and fingers facing toward the ceiling.

Keeping taut legs, take one leg up at a time until the ankles knees, hips and deltoids are in one vertical plane.

10-Salamba-Sarvangasana

At first just practice getting in and holding for one minute. Eventually you build your time up to five minutes.

To come out, KEEP YOUR LEGS TAUT, as you lower one leg down the chair at a time. If you allow the legs to go limp you will crash your feet on the chair. Then reach your hands to the chair, bend your knees and roll down.

Here is why you need blankets in this pose. This strap represents the angle of your spine with blankets. Notice there is gentle, gradual plane that is minimally weight bearing.photo-11

Now, here is your spine’s angle without blankets:SS 90

And then your pose will look like this:

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 3.10.32 PM

OUCH!!

Banana shaped!!

Or worse:

ss sans blanket

90 degree angle of the neck is bad news

You should not do this pose if you are menstruating (or any other pose where the pelvis is elevated). In ayurveda, which is the sister science to yoga, it is advised that one should not interrupt the direction of drainage from the body.

It would be highly advisable to find an Iyengar certified yoga teacher to instruct you to do this pose initially, than use this blog entry as a reminder.

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5 thoughts on “Shoulder Stand Done Right

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  4. LucyMi

    Hi, I read your articles often, thank you very much.

    You mentioned this small part of the spine that bares some weight (c7) and I find that it gives me bad headache after doing SS.

    Can you advise any tips or adjustments which I can try myself to stop these headaches after Salamba Sarvangasana\Halasana? Thank you.

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    Reply
    1. yogibattle Post author

      Hi Lucy! Thanks for reading my blog.

      Make sure you are using blankets to elevate the thoracic spine to take weight off the cervical spine (neck). If you are already doing that and it is causing you headaches, I would try adding another blanket. Make sure the neck is off the blankets by having a starting position with the tops of shoulders 1.5 inches away from the blanket edge before kicking over to Halasana. It is also important to externally rotate your arms correctly. This creates an arch shape in your upper back that supports you during the pose. A good exercise to practice this arm position is in Chatuse Padasana (four footed pose). If headaches persist, I would eschew this pose and seek advice from your doctor. You may have high blood pressure or another condition that may contribute to your headaches. Hope I answered your question to your satisfaction. Many blessings!

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