7 Benefits of Shoulderstand
In the book, “Light on Yoga,” B.K.S Iyengar describes Sarvangasana as the mother of all asanas. So why does Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) get this distinguished acclaim? What is so special about it?
Before we get into the benefits of the pose, let us first take a look at what Sarvangasana actually means. In Sanskrit, Sarva means “all” or “entire” and Anga means “organ” or “body part.” Translated, it means “full body pose” because of its benefits for the whole body.
Benefits of Shoulderstand
In Iyengar’s own words, “The importance of Sarvangasana cannot be over-emphasised. It is one of the greatest boons conferred on humanity by our ancient sages. Sarvangasana is the Mother of asanas. As a mother strives for harmony and happiness in the home, this asana strives for harmony and happiness in the human system. it is a panacea for most common ailments.”
Indeed, since Sarvangasana involves inverting the entire body, it helps relieve a lot of problems we suffer from. Some of its benefits include:
1. Improved Digestion. The change in gravity helps the bowels move freely which aids digestion significantly.
2. Less Strain on the Heart. Since you are lying in an inverted position, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood to various parts of the body.
3. Stronger Immune System. The lymphatic system is responsible for immune system response among other functions. The lymph is similar to blood in that it depends on gravity for movement. So, by staying inverted, the lymphatic system gets stimulated and boosts your immune system response.
4. Relieves Common Cold. Since you create a firm chinlock when practicing Sarvangasana and the head stays firm in this inverted position, the blood supply to the head gets regulated and this helps relieve nasal congestions and headaches.
5. Increased Self-Confidence. Although I can’t say my self-confidence has gone up just from practicing Sarvangasana alone, practicing it every day is supposed to help you feel alive and confident.
6. Benefits your Nervous System. In Iyengar’s own words, “Due to the soothing effect of the pose on the nerves, those suffering from irritation, shortness of temper, nervous breakdown and insomnia are relieved.”
7. Strengthens your Upper Body. In addition to all the internal benefits for the body from practicing Sarvangasana, the physical benefits includes strengthening of the neck, upper back and shoulders.
The list of benefits go on and on.
Without question, Sarvangasana is indeed the mother of all asanas. Practicing it every day feels just great for the body and mind. You can learn how to do it here.
Cautions and Considerations
Some considerations to keep in mind as you do this asana:
It is not recommended for women to do this asana during menstruation. It is also not recommended for people with high blood pressure. Also, if you have neck pain, it is best to consult a doctor or do this pose with the help of an experienced teacher.
Keeping 3-5 folded blankets under the shoulder helps keep your neck/shoulder safe. Done correctly, you should not feel any pressure in the head, ears, eyes or throat.
For best results, stay in the pose for at least three minutes (build up to this) and go up until 15 minutes.You can try the many Sarvangasana variations after you can stay in Sarvangasana for at least 5-10 minutes.
Top 10 Yoga Poses for Headaches
Yoga can be a beneficial therapeutic tool for relieving headaches brought on by muscle tension and stress. The majority of headaches originate from muscle stiffness and imbalances emanating from the neck and upper back. When headaches set in, using a series of restorative yoga exercises can greatly relieve both the cause and symptoms. Here are our top yoga poses and exercises that naturally treat headaches.
1. Cat Pose: The flowing motion of breath and spine helps release tension from the neck and upper back while also pouring refreshing energy through the body and mind.
2. Seated Twists: Besides increasing circulation throughout the entire length of the spine, the twisting motion in the upper spine (cervical region) often alleviates tension coming from the scalene muscles of the neck (anterior aspect).
3. Chest Openers: Much of the tension in the back body is a result of muscle dominance from the front body (called Upper Cross Syndrome). Expanding the chest and front shoulder muscles helps break down muscular imbalances and frees the tension coming from the neck.
4. Eagle Arms: This simple crossed arm pose can be done in Mountain Pose or any natural seated posture. This back expander can reach well into the mid and upper back targeting problematic muscles around the shoulder blades and the base of the neck. Take time in this arm pose to breath slow and full into the upper back and insure that you perform this arm pose on both sides.
5. Simple Neck Stretches: Gently move through the various muscle fiber lines by allowing your head to float down to one shoulder with gravity, down across the chest and into the other side – repeat with a natural, unforced motion. Avoid letting the head fall back-keep the motion in a half circle from one shoulder to the other. Pause where you find extra areas of resistance.
6. Child’s Pose: A perfect restorative yoga pose that slightly inverts the body. A gentle flow of extra blood circulates into the head helping relieve tension. With the legs slightly separated, you can easily settle into deep core and back breathing to encourage a flood of circulation to reach deep into the body. Note that the head and neck should be absolutely comfortable. If needed, keep you arms forward or bend the elbows and rest the forearms by your chest/under your shoulders so the palms face up-this will greatly unload any pressure from the neck.
7. Two Knee Reclining Twist: Unlike our seated twists, this reclining twist can be far more restorative and held longer to bring deeper focus into relaxing the nervous system while the chest expands and rejuvenates the spine. Give extra attention to releasing the shoulders into the mat to release dominance of the shoulder and chest muscles.
8. Legs Up The Wall Pose: This highly beneficial inverted pose is great for developing hamstring flexibility and for improving circulation in the lower limbs. For headaches, the extra flow of blood to the brain and the restorative support can be deeply relaxing and nourishing.
9. Alternate Nostril Breathing: The aim of alternate nostril breathing is to restore balance to the energy systems. With balance, we find release and calm. This yoga breathing exercise is easy to do for all levels and targets the nervous system by slowing brain waves, calming the mind, and purging stress.
10. Relaxation Pose: After doing a series of restorative yoga poses, take some time to simply relax and release in Savasana. Turn the focus away from the symptoms of your headache and settle into the sensation of mental and physical release. You may find a light eye pillow helpful in moving tension/pressure out of the eyes and forehead. Increase your comfort by placing a bolster under the knees and a thin pillow under the head. To complement the chest openers and reclining twists, lay with the arms open to the sides/palms facing the ceiling.