Sarvangasana means entire body pose in Sanskrit. It is one of the few yoga poses that will stimulate and regulate the functions of the entire body. Literally, it will benefit you from head to toe – so an important pose to learn, you would think. But, Sarvangasana looks a lot like a shoulder stand… because that is what you are doing. You are holding the weight of your body on your shoulders. Now, what seemed amazing, now sounds really hard.
But, don’t worry. You can always treat yourself to some wonderful yoga jewellery once your have mastered this ultimate in yoga positions.
The good news is that this is actually a fairly beginner friendly inversion. It is just about understanding the truth of what the body can do – rather than the stories that we tell ourselves. But we said inversion and now you are worried. Don’t. This is going to be fun… just watch any kid under 10 and you will be shocked how often they feel the need to be upside down. It must be great – we have just forgotten!
It helps with everything. This seems improbable – but honestly – there is a reason why it is named after the whole body. It stretches your nervous systems, which relieves stress and calms the brain. It increases the flexibility of your spinal cord – reducing discomfort in the back. The thyroid gland will benefit, and it is thought to help people recover from all diseases.
All inverted positions reduce the strain on the heart and helps with circulation of the blood. This shoulder stand is particularly useful at circulating the blood around the neck and chest. It brings some relief to the symptoms of asthma and bronchitis.
And there are more… healthier digestion… relief from swollen legs… calms headaches… helps with sleep… it’s just amazing… and really good fun!
You need to be a little kind to yourself and maybe avoid this pose if you are on your period. Listen to your body and see what it feels like it wants to do. People with a neck injury should definitely avoid this position, as should people with high blood pressure. It can be difficult for people with diarrhoea, as it is likely to further stimulate the digestive tract.
Be aware that there can be a tendency for beginners to overstretch the neck and pull the shoulders too far from the ears. Keep the neck and throat soft during this pose.
This is a pose for the whole body – but try to keep the throat and tongue soft – loosening the jaw with a smile maybe. You will be able to stay in the pose for longer the more you practice. Make sure you keep the time moderate at first and give your body chance to rest.
You can deepen the pose by placing your feet onto the floor – above your head. This is considered a fairly advanced pose and should be tried with a yoga instructor first. This requires you to lower your toes over your head and placing them on the ground. You can deepen this pose even further by squeezing the shoulder blades together.
To get started, strengthening the shoulders and the lower back for sarvangasana, you could use the bridge pose. This will help to ease you into the starting position for the shoulder stand and is great for the muscles too.
To perfect the pose, you need to be able to get into the pose, and out of it, calmly and gracefully. Imagine wearing one of our beautiful yoga tops that would made you look that a dancer. With this in mind, this is a journey. First, with facing the wall – you may not look so graceful – but this will offer support to your shoulders. Then, to facing away from the wall, which is fun and a little more dignified. Ultimate grace is when you can lift one leg at a time and then stretch upwards to the ceiling and hold in calmness – focused on your breath – and then returning to the ground equally calmly.