The shoulder stand is really an iconic pose in yoga; it not only looks dramatic but the benefits practitioners purport this pose brings are many and varied too. Anyone who is serious about really understanding and experience the real power of yoga can really find that sense of integration through the shoulder stand pose; one of the most wonderfully satisfying yoga inversions.
While we looked at how challenging some inversions can be in yoga, where the head is lower than the heart, the shoulder stand can look more daunting that it actually is. However, you do have to take care with this pose and it is best to try this with a trained yoga practitioner. Women who are pregnant or have their menstruation should avoid this pose, as well as anyone with an underlying health issue such as high blood pressure or neck problems. Check first.
How to do a shoulder stand
To get in the right position, you can follow these steps:
- Start lying flat on your mat.
- With the legs together and keeping your arms and palms flat on your mat, bring the legs up and over your head into the Plow Pose as you inhale.
- Your head, neck and shoulders should be on the mat, along with your arms. Your toes should be touching the mat behind you, with your legs straight.
- Be careful not to jolt into this position or swing into it too intensely. Instead, let the spine gently bend and bring up your hips to give some momentum.
- Next, bend your arms, placing your palms on your waist at the back. Your elbows should be pointing out slightly and not overly wide or too tucked in. Your hands should fit snugly and comfortably in this position.
- The next step is really the tricky part. Keeping your arms strong, bring your legs up so they are straight up. It is best if you bring one up at a time, rather than both together. Don't bend them and keep the toes pointed upwards. It is easy here to lose your balance.
- Remember, you are using your hands to support your back and to benefit from the pose you want to lengthen and stretch the body, so tuck your pelvis in and straighten the line from the mat upwards but do not tighten up the glutes. Keep the neck still and move the chest to the neck and not vice versa.
- To add more support you can place a folded blanket between your shoulders, but your head and neck should not be on this.
If you find this pose too challenging then you can vary it with a Half Shoulder Stand, where you begin lying down with bent legs. Bring the legs into your chest and then extend upwards. As you do so, place your hands on your lower back and lift lower body off the ground so that a 45 degree angle or more is created by your hips. You will find less balance issues in this pose.
Make sure you come out of either pose slowly, lowering your hips in a smooth movement, bending the legs down and finally bringing them down to your mat to rest.
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