Shoulderstand, Salamba Sarvangasana, has been called “the mother of all poses.”
Why Practice Shoulderstand?
In shoulderstand, gravity works on the body in the opposite direction, positively impacting the digestive and circulatory systems.
The position of the head and neck in shoulderstand also regulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands in the throat. These glands regulate how the body uses energy.
How to Set up for Shoulderstand
In Iyengar yoga, when we teach and practice shoulderstand, we add height under the shoulders. This extra height lifts the chest and allows the body to align vertically without over-stretching the back of the neck.
Open up the bottom blanket to cushion the back of your head, prevent pressure in the eyes, and allow for a smooth exit out of the pose, or simply place another blanket on the floor under your head.
Staying Safe in Shoulderstand
Shoulderstand can be practiced every day, unless contraindicated (for example, if you have cervical problems, high blood pressure, or are menstruating).
If you have any health concerns, check with your doctor before coming to classes and practicing this pose (as always!)
Attempting to align yourself vertically without the correct amount of height will put too much weight on your neck’s vertebrae. The number of blankets you need will depend on your body. If you have a history of neck problems, working directly with an experienced Iyengar yoga teacher will help you to determine how to taper and adjust the blankets for your specific needs.
Meghan Goodman is a yoga instructor and professional dance artist who can sometimes be seen dancing on the side of tall buildings. She has been teaching yoga since 2006, and is currently completing a certification in Iyengar yoga. For more information on classes, performances, to book a workshop or private session, please visit www.meghangoodman.wordpress.com