The shoulder stand - upside down for more harmony
Some of you probably know the Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana) from childhood: The “candle” was one of the exercises that I liked best in elementary school physical education. At that time, however, I was not very involved with yoga and therefore did not yet know what great effects the shoulder stand actually has - otherwise I would never have stopped practicing it.
Now, almost 25 years later, the asana has won my love back. That's why today we're going to look at the shoulder stand together.
Step-by-step instructions: This is how you get into the shoulder stand
- You start lying on your back on your yoga mat. First bring your legs together. The arms are beside the body, palms facing down and resting on the floor.
- Now support yourself with your hands on the floor and bring your legs up. Advanced yogis bring your legs straight up - if that doesn't work, you can bend your legs and then stretch them up.
- Next, you should lift your pelvis and back off the floor and stretch straight up. Now only your head and shoulders are on the ground. Be sure to support your back with your hands to relieve the spine.
Hold the pose for a few minutes before exiting in a controlled manner or transitioning into another asana, such as the plow.
Common mistakes and how to avoid them
The head is crooked: Please make sure to keep your head straight so as not to unnecessarily strain your neck and neck area. Auxiliary lines on the yoga mat can be very helpful here, but a mirror or a selfie video will also work.
- The head is moved: If you turn and move your head while performing the asana, this can lead to problems in the neck area and subsequent headaches. So please keep your head still while performing the asana.
- You're too tense: Shoulderstand isn't the easiest asana, and for many, it's not necessarily the most comfortable. Nevertheless, all muscles that you do not need to hold the asana should be relaxed - including the forehead and feet :)
- You forget to breathe: The chest is quite compressed in Sirsasana - all the more you should concentrate on your breath and breathe deeply into your stomach. This is not only good for the bronchi, but also prevents side stitches and makes the position more relaxed.
Effect of the shoulder stand - that's what makes Sirsasana so healthy
I already spoke briefly about the effect of the shoulderstand at the beginning - here we take a closer look at the effects of the asana:
- As with all inversions, blood flow to the head is improved
- The thyroid gland is stimulated by the pressure on the neck and thus the hormone production is stimulated.
- The shoulder stand is said to have a rejuvenating effect
- The tightness in the upper chest area forces abdominal breathing. This can have a positive effect on asthma and bronchitis.
- If you translate the Sanskrit term "Sarvangasana", you can also call the shoulder stand the "position of all parts". It should help to feel connected and to lovingly accept life in all its facets.
- The shoulder stand has a harmonizing and balancing effect.
- From an energetic point of view, the shoulder stand harmonizes and activates the throat chakra, which is located at the level of the throat and is considered the center of communication - an activated throat chakra can thus help to speak one's own truth.
What to do if there is pain during or after shoulderstand?
First of all: pain is not a good sign - in any asana. Please always pay attention to your body's signals, especially when it shows you that a limit is being reached or exceeded.
headache or neck pain
If your head or neck becomes uncomfortable or even hurt during or after the shoulderstand, there can be various reasons. In most cases, the complaints come either from tension or strains, for example because the head was not held straight in shoulderstand or was moved during the asana, or from sensitive vertebrae in the neck area that rest uncomfortably on the floor during the exercise.
If the pain lasts longer than a few hours, it is advisable to see a doctor.
Anyone who is pre-stressed on the back, for example due to a herniated disc or similar, should be particularly careful with the shoulder stand and rather switch to one of the gentle variants.
Even without previous illnesses, the supported shoulder stand can be used for back pain - the same applies here: Yoga is not a competition and it is absolutely fine to work with aids. If you still want to practice the full shoulder stand, you should make sure that you support your back with your hands and keep it as straight as possible.
However, if the pain persists, a doctor should be consulted.
Possible variations and modifications
The shoulder stand is considered the queen of asanas and is quite demanding - so it can be a good idea to build up and practice it in variations first. The variations shown here are perfect…
- to learn the shoulderstand correctly and to build up the necessary strength and coordination
- in case of previous illnesses or pain in full shoulder stand
- if the yoga session should be more relaxing and less demanding
- if full shoulderstand is uncomfortable during your period
The classic: the supported shoulder stand with cushions
For supported shoulderstand, lie on your back with a pillow under your pelvis and raise your legs vertically off the floor. The back is not stretched vertically upwards, but is only slightly lifted by the pillow.
The positive effects remain. This makes the variation the perfect alternative for back problems or for a calmer yoga session.
For sensitive necks: the shoulder stand with a blanket
In another variation of Sirsasana, the neck is relieved with the help of a blanket. A folded blanket is simply placed under the shoulders so that the head is slightly lower than the shoulders. In this way, the vertebrae in the neck and neck area do not press on the floor and the shoulder stand becomes more comfortable.
Attention: In this variant, please make sure that your elbows still have space on the blanket and are elevated.
Popular with pregnant women: the shoulder stand against the wall
If you want to do the shoulderstand against the wall, you don't start in a completely flat back position, but with your butt pressed against a wall, your legs are perpendicular to the wall.
Now you can “run up” the wall as far as is comfortable for you. Please remember to support your back here as well.
The variant on the wall is particularly popular during pregnancy. Here we would like to ask you to listen to your body in particular and if in doubt talk to a doctor or attend a yoga class for pregnant women to make sure that you are doing the asanas correctly so that they are really good for you in the end.
Contraindications: when you should better do without the shoulder stand
Not every asana is suitable for every person. If you have some pre-existing conditions, you should avoid doing the shoulderstand or at least talk to your doctor beforehand:
- high blood pressure or heart failure
- enlarged thyroid or goiter
- various eye diseases such as retinal detachment, or increased intraocular pressure
- acute herniated disc or problems in the neck and neck area
- in the last trimester of pregnancy
In some traditions, inverted poses such as shoulderstands or headstands are also discouraged during periods because they are thought to impede the flow of blood downwards. Because the asana is held for a maximum of a few minutes, we don't see it that narrowly - the rule here is: listen to your body and practice exactly the exercises that are good for you. Personally, I feel more like quiet yin yoga sessions during my period, and then I only practice the shoulder stand in the supported version with a pillow.
Either way, we wish you lots of fun practicing!
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