Sarvangasana helps Harmonize all Harmones, Shoulder Stand

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Techniques of Yoga articles

Sarva, a Sanskrit term when

translated into English,

means all and Anga the body part.

Sarvangasana is the asana,

which employs all the parts of the body,

to various degrees during its execution.

It comes under the category of inversion poses

among Yoga asanas. Inversions involve inverting

the body along the craniocaudal axis ( head to toe).

The functioning and positioning of organs, especially the Heart, in a human body is aligned to the impact of gravity; some follow gravity and some go against it. Inversions turn this alignment of organs upside down which jolts their normal functioning a number of ways.

The circulatory system ( transportation system of the body) has to bear the brunt of gravity the most. Heart by the account of its location within the chest, aided by gravity can circulate blood more easily toward feet than it can towards the head.

Thus all the organs situated above the heart, eyes, ears, nose, throat and the brain, can always do better with a little more blood supply. Sarvangasana makes this possible by tilting the blood flow toward these organs in a head down and legs up position.

Moreover, the organs tend to sink low in their cavities over a period of time due to the constant pull of gravity on them. Organs stacked within the abdominal cavity droop or sink over each other blocking the flow of arterial and venous blood between them as one age. The inverted body position in  Sarvangasana helps the organs to swing back into their original positions unblocking the flow of nourishment to them along with pushing the toxins out.

The brain cannot be subjected to any movements like other body parts in the name of exercising it. Maximum that can be done is by way of increasing the blood supply to the same. This happens automatically while doing Sarvangasana. Thus including Sarvangasana in a yoga practice becomes imperative upon the practitioner. Moreover including the basic tenets of doing asanas and knowing what Patanjali meant by an asana can help the practitioner boost its benefits.

Preparatory Postures for Sarvangasana

The prerequisites for doing Sarvangasana are flexible Pectoralis Major and Anterior Deltoids muscles, a strong spine and core muscles, strong and flexible neck & wrist muscles.  Regular practice of the below-mentioned postures would prepare the practitioner for a more fulfilling experience with Sarvangasana.

  • Setubandha Asana ( Bridge Pose) will increase the flexibility of the Pectoralis Major and Anterior Deltoid muscles
  • Viprit Karni  will stretch the neck muscles to the required flexibility along with increasing the sense of balance
  • Dwipada Uttanpadasana will help prepare the core muscles (stronger) for Sarvangasana

How to do Sarvangasana

  1. Lie supine with the entire body relaxed and palms down on the mat
  2. Take a short breath and start exhaling, simultaneously lift both the legs together till they make a right angle   with the body above the waist
  3. Remember to keep the knees straight and the body above the waist undisturbed throughout this action.
  4.  Inhale briefly and start lifting the body above the waist while exhaling
  5. Keep the palms pressed  down in the mat
  6. Now raise the lower arms and support the elevated waist with the individual palms supporting the sides
  7. Push the waist higher while running the palms down toward the upper back, position the legs above the head parallel to the ground
  8. The neck and the torso at this position are at right angles to each other
  9.   Inhale briefly while keeping the raised legs and the torso straight, give a final push upwards, exhaling straighten the legs as well as the torso vertically over the shoulders all the while supported by the lower arms scaffolding against the upper back. firm up the hips region for additional support
  10. The angle between the neck and the chest along with the body above should be maintained at 90 degrees throughout
  11. Rest the chin in the jugular notch( the V-shaped depression over the sternum just below the neckline, between the outwardly radiating frontal upper ribs, this locking of the chin is also known as Jalandhara Bandha or Chin lock), and the entire body weight must be on the shoulders and elbows only.
  12. Practice slow, rhythmic abdominal breathing in the final position of Sarvangasana and stay in this position starting from a few seconds for  beginners to a maximum of 3 minutes for experienced practitioners 
  13. Begin to exhale while attempting  to release the pose by slowly lowering  both the knees         toward the forehead, touch the forehead with the knees
  14.  Exhaling start lowering the hips to the mat along with slowly  straightening the legs fold on to the mat guided and supported by the lower arms
  15. The final  lowering of the legs in Sarvangasana must be without any jerky popping off the head and the neck from the mat, finally reach the starting supine position with the arms lying beside the body

Alignment Essentials & Modifications – Shoulder Stand

  • Make sure that the heels, legs, abdomen and the chest are stacked above each other in a straight line directly above the shoulders. This can be achieved by straightening the spine upwards and bearing the entire weight on the tops of the shoulder blades and elbows for the experienced practitioners. Beginners to Sarvangasana can support their weight on the shoulders, neck, and head together
  • In case the practitioner is not able to lift the straightened legs together, the knees can be bent while lifting the legs and the same can be straightened once up.
  • The above-mentioned alignment if achieved correctly will make the practitioner feel light, balanced and comfortable.  Any discomfort felt in the final posture is an indication of the alignment going awry.
  • In Sarvangasana the weight of the entire body is born by the shoulders. Roll the shoulder tops towards the mat so that the  C7 vertebrae of the cervical spine lightly touches the mat in the final position.
  • In case the practitioner’s cervical region of the neck is not flexible enough to bend to a comfortable 90 degree, use 3 to 4 blankets stacked one upon the other with the lower neck resting on the longer edge of the stacked blankets and the head lying low on the mat, slanted towards the head. When Sarvangasana is done with the aid of blankets as props it is known as Salamba Sarvangasana or supported Shoulder Stand.
  • The elbows should not be away from each other more than the shoulder width
  • Slight pressure is felt on the thyroid gland situated within the neck.
  • The legs and the toes must be kept relaxed, as straining these would constrict the blood vessels present in them, restricting the downward flow of lymph & blood as expected.
  • The attention can be kept on the Thyroid gland.

Sarvangasana done the correct way should make the eyelids feel heavier, body energetic and the Mind steadier and calmer. In case the practitioner feels anxiety or anger after doing Sarvangasana, the technique as presented above must be reevaluated. 

Follow Up Poses – Shoulder Stand 

In order to counteract the effects of chin lock ( Jalandhara Bandha), do Matsya asana, Bhujangasana or Chakrasana immediately after doing Sarvangasana. These asanas will stretch the front of the neck along with compressing the back of the neck, the exact opposite to what happens in Sarvangasana.

Contra-Indications – Sarvangasana

  • The duration of Sarvangasana should be kept at the minimum, a maximum of  3 minutes and a minimum of 30 seconds as the real benefits of this asana start to percolate not before 30 seconds after the practitioner has got into the posture. Never attempt this posture immediately after some rigorous activity because here the rush of blood to the brain during this asana will do more harm than good to the already blood drenched brain area.
  • Sarvangasana should be avoided by people suffering from heart problems, high blood pressure, or any diseases of the brain. It should also be avoided by women while menstruating or during pregnancy. Persons afflicted with enlarged thyroid, spleen or liver must not practice this asana till the time the condition is cured. This posture also doesn’t forebode well if done in conditions like cervical spondylitis, weak blood vessels in the eyes, slipped discs and during having a headache. It shouldn’t be done when experiencing headache, though practicing it otherwise helps improve this issue. Sarvangasana should also not be attempted immediately after any cervical surgeries.

Advantages – Benefits of doing Shoulder Stand

Sarvangasana showers a cornucopia of benefits on the practitioner if done regularly over a period of time, due to which it is also known as the Queen of yoga postures. Since this posture involves all the body parts in its execution, the benefits also get accrued to the entire body at multifarious levels as elucidated below. A research report on how Sarvangasana benefits the body systematically outlines the science behind this yoga asana.

  • In Sarvangasana the body being inverted releases the pressure on the blood vessels as the blood held by them, especially the lower extremities, gets drained towards the heart, relieving conditions like varicose veins, inverted asana is a must part of the yoga for healing varicose veins. Since the pelvic viscera is temporarily displaced, the stagnant blood from the genitals gets drained and replaced with a gush of fresh blood, this rejuvenates the reproductive health of the practitioner. 
  • Similarly, the endocrine glands, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, pancreas, etc. receive a fresh lease of life which helps arrest the aging process. Gastrointestinal problems, dyspepsia, constipation, and hernia gets eliminated as the visceral organs receive the needed reinvigorating massage during Sarvangasana, it is frequently as a part of the yoga for healing hernia.  used the arteries and the veins get stimulated due to the friction developed between various organs of the abdomen from the being inverted in Sarvangasana.
  • Sarvangasana eliminates the congestion in the pelvic organs as well, relieving the premenstrual symptoms to a great extent. The blood rushes to the brain and the facial region, ironing away the wrinkles along with adding gloss to the skin. The mental vigor spikes as the brain get flooded with freshly oxygenated blood. Inversions generally improve the blood supply to the scalp benefiting the quality of hair in general.
  • In Sarvangasana the pressure of the chin against the upper lungs restricts breathing through that region of lungs,  this necessitates abdominal breathing and breathing from the lower lobes of the lungs instead. Moreover, the Diaphragm gets strengthened as it has to work against the gravity in this posture,  this proves beneficial for the asthmatics. One set of glands that are most impacted by this asana are the Thyroid and the Parathyroid glands located in the throat. This region is the pivotal point of all the deluge of oxygenated blood aided by the pull of gravity gets massaged and nourished. This helps with maintaining the appropriate weight of the Practitioner
  • The calcium and phosphorus metabolism too gets a boost, as these are regulated by the parathyroid gland.
  • In menopausal women, this asana is a part of yoga for easy menopause, the intensity of night sweats and hot flashes are reduced.  The inverted flow of blood refreshes the Thymus gland as well which gives a boost to the immune system. Its believed that while in Sarvangasana the Prana gets pulled toward the center of the body, organs, from the surface. It also strengthens the nervous system, substantially increasing the confidence levels. Blood pressure in the anus area is reduced which relieves the discomfort due to hemorrhoids, it proves to  be a very effective technique for the yoga for healing hemorrhoids
  • As the hormonal system gets balanced, all the major body systems: the digestive system, the circulatory system, the nervous system, and the endocrine system get rejuvenated impacting the overall health. Issues related to the ears, the eyes, and the throat get resolved with the regular practice of Sarvangasana. it is the first choice  of all who are  looking for effective techniques of yoga for healthy eyes
  • ore interestingly the location of  Visudhi Chakra or the throat chakra is where the thyroid gland is positioned. This chakra is associated with creativity and self-expression ( Communication, speaking the truth, holding secrets). Regular practice of Sarvangasana energizes, opens this chakra helping solve the issue related to these aspects of our personality.  We tend to learn and grow wiser from our negative experiences if Visuddah Chakra is open.