Shoulderstand: do’s & don'ts

Shoulderstand (sarvangasana), also called the "queen of postures", is an inversion on the shoulders with many benefits.

The benefits

In particular, shoulderstand stretches the neck and the upper back, strengthens the spine and the abdominals, improves blood flow (it is said that it can reduce wrinkles and cellulite) and digestion. It also smoothes the nervous system and balances the hormonal system as it activates the thyroid.

This posture is not easy when we are a beginner: we often lack strength in the core and flexibility in the upper body to stand on the shoulders and not on the upper back.

Don’t give up and don’t force it, it will come with a regular practice!

The manual

Here are my tips to do this posture: 

  • Lay on your back, legs straight on the floor and arms along the body
  • Bring your feet near your buttocks, knees bend
  • On an inhalation, tense the muscles of the perineum and of the abdominals and lift your legs and your feet off the floor bringing your knees near your chest
  • Bend your elbows and place your hands on the lower back for support. The elbows could be shoulder-width apart
  • Keeping your perineum and core engaged, lift up your torso and let your legs stretch towards the sky
  • Keep your gaze on the feet: don’t turn the head otherwise you could suffer from neck pain
  • Draw your shoulder blades firmly into your upper back and leave space between your chin and chest. Relax your throat
  • Be careful with your neck: you must not feel any compression in this area. If this is the case don’t insist or use a blanket under your shoulders for example
  • Hold the pose for at least 10 breaths if possible. With each inhalation try tightening up your perineum, your core and your legs a bit more
  • To release the pose, bend your knees towards your face, round your torso and slowly roll down vertebra by vertebra with your hands supporting your back 

The variations

If you feel some discomfort try those modifications:

  • If you don’t feel right in the neck, place your upper back and shoulders on a blanket. Your head and neck need to be off the blanket. Adjust the height of the blanket according to your flexibility and your breast
  • If it’s too hard to lift up both legs at one time lift up one leg at a time
  • For a soft version of the pose, try it with a block under your sacrum your legs straight towards the sky. You can also do it legs against a wall

The contraindications 

Avoid this pose if you suffer from glaucoma, diarrhea, headaches, high blood pressure, heart disease or neck injury.

Tradition recommends to avoid inverted poses during menstruations as it could disrupt the natural process of elimination.

If you are pregnant and not experienced with the pose don’t take up its practice before 8 weeks after having given birth.

Shoulderstand is an intermediate-advanced pose. If you are a beginner don’t perform it without the supervision of a teacher.

And you ? What is your story with shoulderstand ? Don’t hesitate to share it with a comment !