Shoulder stand (Sarvangasana)


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Shoulder stand is one of my favorite poses in yoga.  It is regarded as the Queen of Asana’s with the Headstand being the King.  Shoulder stand is an inverted posture which benefits the physical body as well as the emotional.  Physically in this posture the body is turned upside down reversing the effects of gravity, it also helps to dispel excess aggression.  On an emotional level when you turn upside down you allow for a new perspective on your thoughts and behavior.

Benefits of shoulder stand:

  • Deeply calming pose, especially beneficial if you are feeling tense, anxious, nervous or irritated.
  • Stimulates and balances hormonal functions in the body.
  • Nourishes the thyroid gland.
  • Reverses sagging skin and brings a luminous quality to the skin and eyes.
  • Removes dark shadows and hollows under the eyes.
  • Re-energizes  the heart, lungs, face and brain.
  • Stimulates the circulatory system.
  • Aids digestion.
  • Helps relieve varicose veins.
  • Soothes and neutralizes the nervous system.
  • Helps relieve fatigue & insomnia.
  • Increases stamina, strength and induces a sense of well-being.
  • Relieves breathlessness, asthma, bronchitis, throat ailments and migraine.
  • Reduces fluid retention.
  • Tones all the internal organs.

 Who shouldn’t do shoulder stand:

  • Those who suffer with high blood pressure.
  • If you have a neck / shoulder injury as being in this posture may aggravate it.
  • If you have a detached retina or glaucoma.
  • If you have weak blood vessels in your eye.
  • If you are menstruating.
  • If you have Cervical Spondylitis.
  • If you suffer from hiatal hernia.

If you are pregnant, care should be taken with this pose.  Unless you are adept at yoga, I would suggest you modify the posture and use the wall as a support, great awareness should be placed on the sensations you feel whilst in the pose and as with all yoga postures listen to your inner guidance, if it doesn’t feel right, stop!


If you are a beginner the safest way to enter into this posture is with the use of a wall.  Begin by placing your yoga mat at the wall.  Fold a number of towels and place them on the mat.  The towels are being used to reduce the level of flexion in your neck once you are in the posture.  It is important that the towels come only as far as your shoulders and are not under your neck, head or hair.

Recline onto the blankets, placing your shoulders at the edge of the blanket.  Your buttocks should be almost touching the wall this may take a little correcting on your behalf.  Place the soles of your feet on the wall.  When you feel ready slowly lift your buttocks, pelvis and spine off the floor until your weight is over your shoulders.  Tuck your elbows in at the side of your body and gently place your hands on your back.  Fingers will be pointing towards your buttocks.   Raise one leg at a time off the wall to get a feel for the posture, please be aware of the sensations in your neck at this stage, as you may not wish to proceed any further into the pose.  Note:  do not move your neck whilst in the pose.  If there is any discomfort in your neck area you should come down out of the posture.  If you do however, feel comfortable you are now ready to take both legs away from the wall.  Once your legs are extended into the air draw your sit bones towards each other (clench your buttocks slightly) also draw your tailbone towards your public bone to engage the core muscles.  Send your heels towards the ceiling actively working the legs.  Breathe comfortably in this position and hold for a couple of breaths.  Gradually extend the length of time you stay in this posture aiming to be able to hold the position for a couple of minutes over a period of months.

To come back down, gently bend one knee at a time and place the foot back onto the wall.  Once both feet are on the wall you can then begin to gently lower your back towards the floor, supporting yourself with your hands as you do so.  Once the spine is firmly back on the blanket gently turn to one side, take a couple of breaths here to allow your blood pressure to return to normal, then gently using your hands push yourself back up into a seated position.

Because this is such a deep stretch into the back of the neck I would recommend that you stretch the front of the neck.  From a seated position gently raise your chin towards the ceiling, feeling the gentle stretch into the front of your neck.  Hold this position for as long as you held the shoulder stand.

Advanced Students:

There are many ways of entering shoulder stand once you are familiar with yoga.  I personally move from Savasana into half shoulder stand and then re-position myself into full shoulder stand.  Another option is to move from Knee-to Ear Pose.  Whichever option you chose holding the position will be as above.

For those who are adept at yoga my own personal sequence is Savasana, into Shoulder Stand, then move into Plow Pose (taking one leg back at a time), followed by Knee-to-Ear Pose, Pose of Tranquility, Candle and then finally back to Shoulder Stand again drawing one leg back at a time.

To come out of this posture bring an knee on either side of your head.  Hands are extended and placed onto your mat, push into your arms.  Engage your core and keeping your head on the floor slowly un-curl your spine until it is placed back on the mat.

I personally like to stretch the front of my neck as a contra pose to the shoulder stand with fish pose.