Lots of Yoga

Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana) For Beginners

We take apart the yoga Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana) and find the best and most innovative modifications/variations of this pose for you to enjoy.

How do you feel about being upside down?

shoulder stand variations yoga pose

We take a deeper look into Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulder Stand), what it's good for, and best way to find the right position for you so you don't have to leave it out at the end of your practice.

Supported Shoulder Stand Benefits: What is it good for?

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Shoulder Stand is one of those super-poses that has a wide array of benefits to not only the outer body but the inner body and mind as well, including: -

  • Helping digestion - Getting the internal organs upside down helps any waste or gas that could be stuck, get unstuck.
  • Relieving swollen legs - Being upside down helps drain excess fluid from your lower limbs, relieving any swelling which has built up throughout the day, making them feel great.
  • Soothing varicose veins - Varicose veins can be caused by standing for long periods of time; Shoulder Stand drains the blood from the legs soothing and decreasing varicose veins.
  • Reducing face wrinkles - Now this is a great reason to practice this pose! The increased blood flow to the face helps reduce wrinkles for a smooth and rosy complexion.
  • Relieving headaches - The altered blood pressure caused by being upside down does wonders for those annoying tension headaches.
  • Improving circulation - Shoulder Stand gets the blood and oxygen moving around, creating a healthier circulatory system.
  • Relaxing the mind - Activating Jalandhara Bandha (the chin energy lock) by bringing the chin to the chest, brings the focus inwards and helps bring calmness to the mind.
  • Relaxing the heart - The increased blood flow to the heart in this pose means that the poor thing doesn't have to work so hard, and so decreases the heart rate, calming it down.
  • Relieving thyroid issues - Shoulder stand can regulate the hormone secretion of the thyroid/parathyroid glands which get out of whack in people with thyroid problems.
  • Relieving insomnia - Salamba Sarvangasana has been known to aid in restful sleep as it helps you slow down, relax and relieve any aches in the lower limbs promoting deep sleep.

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"Persons suffering from breathlessness, palpitation, asthma, bronchitis and throat ailments get relief from [Shoulder Stand]." - B.K.S. Iygenar, Light on Yoga

With all these benefits, it's not a pose that you'll want to leave out of your practice! Now, let's find out how to do it properly to be able to get all of these lovely benefits.

How to do Shoulder Stand Pose - Step-by-Step Guide For Beginner

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Here are three technical steps of getting into a Salamba Sarvangasana: -

1. Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest (Apanasana).

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2. Rock your pelvis and legs up towards the ceiling by activating your core till your bum has lifted off the floor and catch your lower back with your hands.

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3. Gently bring the elbows in towards each other and raise the legs straight up towards the sky.

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How to safely get out of a Salamba Sarvangasana

Safely getting out of a pose is just as, if not more, important as getting into it. Here's how you can safely get out of Shoulder Stand.

1. From Shoulder Stand, bring one knee down at a time towards your head.

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2. Slowly splay out the elbows and slide the hands down from the lower back to the bum letting the upper body down as gently as possible, eventually bringing the bum to the floor, one vertebrae at a time, till you're back in Apanasana.

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While some glide effortlessly into Supported Shoulder Stand like they were born this way, others prefer to glide right past it it in their practice as if it doesn't exist. If you find this pose difficult or uncomfortable but wish that you could learn to love it, we show you some Shoulder Stand variations that combat the five most common problems faced with this pose to make sure you'll never want to skip it again.

Troubleshooting your Shoulder Stand Yoga Pose

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Shoulder stand is one of those poses that you usually either love or hate. There are four main common problems that come along with doing a shoulder stand, and we are here to tackle each one.

1. A Pain in the Neck During Shoulder Stand

A common problem is pain or discomfort in the neck when doing this pose. Firstly, it's called Shoulder Stand and not Neck Stand, so make sure your weight is on your shoulders. If you still have an ouchy neck, you are not alone. Good job we've found a couple of really accessible solutions.

Solution 1: Tilt your body

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From "legs up the wall" pose, straighten the body into a plank. This angle alleviates tension to the neck spitting the weight between the shoulders and the wall.

Solution 2: Use a prop

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Or two, or five! Put a rolled up blanket or yoga mat, or a soft bolster or cushion under the neck to soften the contact with the floor. The Dharma Yoga wheel is really good at helping your Salamba Sarvangasana too.

2. Legs won't stay up During Shoulder Stand

If you have trouble getting and keeping your legs all the way up in Shoulder Stand, here's the good news: they don't actually have to go or stay all the way up! Here are a couple of alternatives.

Solution 1: Halasana (Plough Pose) or Pindasana (Ear Pressure Pose)

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A popular transition from Shoulder Stand and in succession in the Ashtanga yoga series are Plough and Ear Pressure Poses, where you bring your legs back down to the floor over your head. Have fun with it!

Solution 2: Use a wall

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If you're set on getting your legs up though, an alternative way of using a wall to help in this pose is having the wall behind your head with your shins or feet leaning against it.

Solution 3: Put a block under your bum

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This trick is surprisingly efficient! Putting a block under your bum somehow magically manages to make sure your legs stay up letting you get all of the lovely benefits of being upside down.

3. Shoulder ache

Shoulder ache in Shoulder Stand isn't that surprising because you are essentially holding yourself up on your shoulders. But it doesn't have to be painful. Here are some things you can try if you have discomfort in your shoulders when doing this pose.

Solution 1. Blanket time

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Use a folded up blanket under the shoulders to lift them a few inches off the floor, with the head resting on the floor/mat, softening the contact of the shoulders to the floor and helping alleviate any pressure in the shoulders and neck.

Solution 2: Use your bed

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What softer (and more fun) way is there to do your Shoulder Stand than on your bed? Softly and slowly does it.

4. Boobs-in-face situation

Can't breathe in Shoulder Stand because your nasal passages are being blocked by your ample assets? You are not alone! Here are a few Shoulder Stand variations for those who have tried every sports bra on the planet and still have a "boobs in face" issue when doing this pose.

Solution 1: Change your angle

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Bring your bottom closer and more parallel to the floor, supporting your lower back with your hands. You: 1. Gravity: 0.

Solution 2: Lean on on a stool/chair

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As in the point above, the slightly lowered angle of your body/feet leaning against a stool or chair makes sure that your boobs don't squash your face as much as when in the full expression of the pose. Alternatively you can use a stool under your bottom.

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(via Maya Yoga Studio)

5. Trouble balancing

Shoulder Stand is essentially a balancing pose. It's perfectly normal to find it tricky at the beginning to find your pose. Here are some tips to straighten that problem right out.

Solution 1. It's that trusty wall again

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Leaning against the wall with your legs bent and feet flat against it allows you to try balancing by lifting one leg up at a time. Remember to tighten your core. Alternatively, you can just hang out here.

Solution 2. Something to lean on

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We love this completely innovative idea of using a bike stand as a yoga prop! If the bike stand near you is not exactly suitable for doing yoga on, you can always use a chair...

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...or a Dharma yoga wheel.

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And if all else fails, you can always lean on a friend!

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Shoulder stand variations we wish we could do - Practice and all is coming!

We love playing around with yoga and we know you do too. Here are some awesome Shoulder Stand variations we came across that we can't wait to have a fun play with.

Hold on to your feet

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Elegantly topsy-turvy

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Mudra through the Lotus holes

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Just hanging out

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Reverse Namaste Sarvangasana

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Jesus Christ Shoulder Stand

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Proptastic!

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Partner up!

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Last but not least... Could this be the most awesome Shoulder Stand transition ever?

We know we may be overreaching slightly by putting this on our yoga bucket list but look at this beauty of a transition! Maybe we could try it with our teacher or friends! Surrounded by cushions and crash pads of course...

How do you find Shoulder Stand? Do you have any tips/tricks to for this pose? We'd love to hear from you.

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