Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)

Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) is a yoga pose which involves the muscles of the entire body. It is classified as an inverted pose. Inverted poses help to tone and stretch the body by working against the force of gravity.

There are many health benefits of practicing this pose on a regular basis.

In yoga, sarvangasana is one of those poses which improve blood circulation throughout the body.

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The blood flow is directed from the lower body to the heart. This pose also helps to prevent the occurrence of varicose veins in the legs. Sarvangasana benefits also include strengthening the lungs. During breathing, the lower region of the lungs receives most of the oxygen due to the effect of gravity. Inverted yoga positions such as sarvangasana help to direct the flow of oxygen to the upper parts of the lung, thereby strengthening the capacity of lung tissue. The inversion also allows a better blood flow to the brain and this enhances mental alertness and concentration. Many individuals with thyroid problems also obtain benefit from practicing sarvangasana. This is because the thyroid gland which is situated in the neck receives a good supply of oxygen through the blood.

In order to perform sarvangasana, first lie down on your back with the hands at the sides. Exhale and raise the legs to a 30 degree angle and then at 60 degrees. Then slowly extend the legs backwards behind the head to 130 degrees. Hold this position for a few seconds and breathe normally. Then exhale, bring the legs to 90 degrees and raise the buttocks. Use your palms to support your back, but keep the elbows on the ground. Gradually lift the body higher and move your hands up to support the shoulder blades. The shoulders, hips and feet should be properly aligned. Once your body is resting on the shoulders, hold the position for as long as it is comfortable and then slowly resume original position. Individuals with medical conditions such as neck injuries, hypertension, cervical spondylitis, arteriosclerosis and glaucoma should avoid performing this exercise. Menstruating women should also refrain from practicing this pose as it reverses the menstrual flow due to the inversion. This pose is also not recommended for those with kidney problems. Many yoga experts recommend doing the sirsasana (head stand) along with sarvangasana. However one should only attempt sirsasana under the guidance of a yoga teacher or a trained yoga instructor.

Sarvangasana is considered to be the 'Queen of yoga asanas', due to its varied benefits to the system. It helps the body, soul and the mind and is a combination of all the body postures. It is effective for individuals suffering from thyroid complications. Each and every muscle involved in this asana benefits the adjacent organ.

The effectiveness of the shoulder stand is obvious on the face, as it rejuvenates the body. Complete relief to the nervous system is yet another benefit of the shoulder stand.

One can practice this yoga pose by lying flat on your back with the palms on the sides. Lift your legs, while exhaling and reach them behind your head. Hold and breathe for a few seconds. Exhale and straighten your legs to 90 degree, perpendicular to the floor. Lift your buttocks and hold your back with the palms. Support the body, by placing your elbows on the floor. They should be in alignment with the shoulders and the body should be in a straight line. Hold for a while and release slowly and reach the floor. Rest and repeat the same.

Sarvangasana is also referred to as candle stand, as the body is straight and intact like a candle. It also provides relief from certain conditions, such as asthma, shortness of breath and heavy breathing. Junk foods and other fast foods result in digestive problems. Better digestion improves the overall health of the individual. Improvement in diet and shoulder stand relieves anaemia and related conditions. Shoulder stand is better done in the early hours of the morning, as it relieves fatigue associated with little or excess sleep. Relief from seminal weakness and improvement in virility are the other benefits. Standing on the shoulders provides good sleep, when practiced in the evening. It helps to treat back related problems and back ache.

Relief from sore throats, head ache and congestion of the nose are also seen. It also invigorates the venous, digestive and nervous systems. The body is more strong and healthy due to the improvement in circulation and thereby circulation. Stretching helps the muscles of the neck. It also helps women to relieve pain during menstrual cycle. Shoulder stand also proves beneficial for women, after giving birth to a child.

The other benefits of sarvangasana or the shoulder stand are:

  • regulation of the sex glands and the pituitary glands
  • stimulation of the nerves
  • improvement in blood circulation and
  • increase in efficiency of the thyroid
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