The Shoulder Stand Pose or Sarvangasana stretches the shoulders and neck, strengthening the legs and core. It can also calm the mind by reversed blood flow.
The Shoulder Stand Pose can be done by:
1. Begin lying flat on your back with the arms alongside the body.
2. Turn your palms to face downwards and engage the abdomen as you start to lift the legs up from the ground. Extend the toes towards the ceiling, but keep the hips on the ground. If possible keep your legs straight and use the strength of the abdomen to lift the legs up. Otherwise, bend your knees slightly. If it does not feel appropriate to come further, you can stay here.
3. Turn your palms to face downwards and engage the abdomen as you start to lift the legs up from the ground. Extend the toes towards the ceiling, but keep the hips on the ground. If possible keep your legs straight and use the strength of the abdomen to lift the legs up. Otherwise, bend your knees slightly. If it does not feel appropriate to come further, you can stay here.
4. Support either your lower or upper back with your hands, and keep the back of your neck and head on the floor. So your elbows and shoulders are firmly resting on the ground, and most of the weight is in your shoulders rather than the neck.
5. Now bring your attention towards your legs, activating your leg muscles and reaching your feet up towards the ceiling. By pointing the toes it might be easier to activate your legs.
6. There is a natural tendency for the feet to reach a bit too far towards your head. To resist this, reach your feet back so that your ankles, hips, and shoulders are in one line. The abdomen needs to strongly engage to support you here.
7. Keep your gaze looking towards your big toes, as you stay here for between five and ten breaths.
8. Slowly come out of the pose by releasing the support on your back and rolling down, vertebrae by vertebrae, your upper, middle and lower back to the ground. Once the hips connect with the floor, you can use the strength of your abdomen to slowly and with control lower the legs back down to the floor, returning back to lying on your back with arms alongside your body.
Read the following cautions to stay safe:
• If you have any neck or shoulder injury please do not perform this pose.
• It is advised for women to avoid staying too long in this pose if you are on the first couple of days of your period.
• If there is any concern, please contact your physician for advice on whether or not this position is beneficial to you.
• Once you are in the pose avoid moving your neck and looking to the side as this will bring too much pressure onto your neck.
• If you are concerned about anything with this pose, please consult a physician about whether this practice is good for you.
• Keep the hips connected to the ground and extend the legs up straight towards the ceiling.
• For a more gentle version, you can keep the hips on the ground still and rest the legs against a wall.