Ok. This is a ROCKSTAR pose. Salamba Sarvangasanal. Supported Shoulder Stand. This pose comes with a plethera of health benefits. See below. But lets chat about this pose for a bit,for like with everything, light to dark, good to evil, sugar to salt, this pose comes with a disclaimer.
This picture is of the PERFECT pose. So…picture a long line. At the left end being a pose “really out of alignment” and on the right “perfect”, we try to find our place someplace on the line. Hopefully not at “really out…”, and we should probably accept not at perfect. So some place in the middle with the idea of maybe progressing towards “more in alignment”. But this pose/place on the line is where you find EASE, OPENNESS, ENPOWERING. NO PAIN. So, a couple of things to know.
SAFETY FIRST. Couple of thoughts on this. You have heard the teacher say, keep your attention on your mat, etc. Well, part of this is because of the inescapable truth, everyone is built differently. Check out these pictures of different people, how far they can bend their neck. And with that in mind, think about all YOUR weight, being above your heart and heading towards vertical. Meaning most of your weight bearing down in the shoulder/neck region. If your body simply DOES NOT bend in such a way to facilitate opening, and definitely no damage…heed caution in this pose.
Why? The cervical vertebrae are crazy small and shaped differently, compared to the thoracic or lumbar. And of course, their function is to give range of motion to the head/eyes and to protect the nerves and blood vessels. Think of the neck as the bridge from the control center to the machine. A lot of stuff going on in there. Check out this picture of the neck.
Don’t be freaked out. Don’t think this pose is off limits…there are ways to have your cake and eat it too. Moderation. What does moderation in a pose mean? First, don’t be so connected to a final look of what the pose “should” be. Alignment is important, to a point. Finding EASE and OPENNESS where you’re at today is important too. Practice slowly, in stages. Use props. Notice in the “perfect” pose picture, she is on blankets to give her cervical vertebrae room to bend and to take a bit of pressure off the delicate parts. There are other modifications to do as well. Use a wall for support. Use a chair. Lots of cool things to do. So WHY??? Why go through all the trouble. Well, check out this list of what shoulder stand does for you. TONS OF STUFF.
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Stimulates the lymphatic system
- Stimulates the thyroid and prostate glands and abdominal organs
- Stretches the shoulders and neck
- Tones the legs and buttocks
- Improves digestion
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Reduces fatigue and alleviates insomnia
- Therapeutic for asthma, infertility, and sinusitis
I wanted to chat about the 2nd one for just a second. RUNNERS CHECK THIS OUT!!!! So, when muscles get tired and deprived of oxygen, they build up lactic acid. That’s one of the reasons why the IT band hurts to touch. So, this inversion stimulates the lymphatic system to drain. The lymph system doesn’t have fluid regulation like the blood (a.k.a the heart) it relies on gravity. So getting upside down changes things up. And for this discussion, this action helps the lactic acid drain out of those muscles. Cool uh.
So the point? This is an awesome pose to be practiced. Find a good yoga teacher that can help you find your pose of EASE and OPENNESS. Put what they say in your backpack and as you travel around sampling other yoga classes do your pose. Use props if you need to. If no props are available, do a modified version of the pose. Or skip for that time. Keep your neck safe. Remember, it’s the connection from the master controller to the machine.