Salamba=propped up or supported
Sarva=whole or all
Asana=seat or posutre
Supported all limb posture
Have you ever felt that the weight of the whole world was upon your shoulders? Sometimes our ego causes us to “shoulder” responsibilities that are not ours to bear. Practicing the inverted posture shoulderstand can allow us not only to become aware of the burdens we have placed upon ourselves, but also that we are, in fact, capable of carrying those burdens if necessary. Inversions literally cause us to turn our world upside down and look at things from an entirely new perspective. It can shine light on those burdens we need to shoulder and those we need to let go.
The benefits of shoulderstand are so vast that it is considered the Queen of Yoga Asana. It has a balancing effect on the whole body. Draining stagnant blood from the legs and abdominal organs; increasing blood circulation to the brain which improves mental functioning; improving respiration, helping to relieve asthma, bronchitis, throat ailments, breathlessness and palpitations; massaging the digestive and elimination systems; and regulating the menstrual cycle and reducing menstrual cramps as well as ovarian cysts are some of shoulderstands’ many benefits. It has a profound effect on the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which not only regulate the rate at which food and oxygen are metabolized but also are very influential on our emotional and mental dispositions.
Contraindications include; arteriosclerosis; cerebral thrombosis: excessively high blood pressure; slipped discs
Where experienced practitioners may begin lying on a yoga mat, using a folded blanket or two under the neck, shoulders, and back alleviates strain from the neck. The head should be on the floor, hands by your sides. Begin by rolling your shoulders back and squeezing the shoulder blades together. As you exhale, bring your knees into your chest and begin to lift your hips off the mat. Placing your palms on your hips for support, press the elbows firmly down. Using your abdominal muscles, as you exhale slowly raise your legs up to the sky stretching your body from the armpits to the toes. The palms move down the back close to your shoulder blades. Maintain the curve in the cervical spine, gaze to your chest. Ideally, the back should be almost vertical; the body should be supported by the shoulders and the back of the head with the arms providing stability. Breathe deeply and slowly. See where you can soften and relax into the pose. Watch the breath and notice if any discomfort arises. Discomfort forces the mind to focus. The security of being upright is no longer available. We learn to breath through uncomfortable situations, which will inevitably arise, in our everyday life. Remind yourself that this discomfort will pass. It will not last forever. Change is inevitable. There is always something changing in the body and mind… in life.
When you are ready to come out of the pose, fold lengthened legs over the head, place the arms on the floor at your sides and gradually lower the legs down. See if there are some of those burdens you are shouldering that you can leave behind. Completely relax for a few breaths and then move into a counter pose such as matsyasana(fish) or bhujangasana(cobra) or any pose that bends the head gently backwards.
Full shoulderstand can be quite challenging, so don’t feel badly if you are not able to get your hips, shoulders, and feet lined up. Ardha Sarvangasana(Half shoulderstand) where the legs are at an angle is always a possibility, as well as using a wall or a chair for support.