Shoulder stand can be an uncomfortable posture. For some of us, it may provide sensations that we don’t wish to feel, like in our neck; for others, it can be a challenge to begin to invert. Most of us can begin to feel some of the positive effects of this posture without actually getting into it.
To open up the shoulders for shoulder stand, I like to stand facing a wall with my toes touching the baseboard. I take my right arm straight out horizontally and press the entire right arm and palm against the wall. Slowly I begin to turn my whole body to the left, by moving my feet in tiny movements. I work my body to the left while I keep my right shoulder and arm pressing into the wall. This is a nice stretch that I can control by how much or little I turn my body away from the wall. I move out of this stretch by gently turning back to face the wall. Don’t forget to switch sides!
After opening the shoulders with two or three different kinds of stretches, I’m ready for an inversion. Shoulder stand requires a few minutes of setup in the Iyengar and Anusara traditions and if I don’t have the time to prepare my blankets and mat, I will frequently practice on of my favorite inversions, one that can even prepare me for Savasana.
Viparita Karani or Legs Up the Wall provides all the benefits of other inversions while reducing physical stress in the body. Lying on my back on the mat, I bend my knees and keep my feet together on the floor to one side of the mat. I skootch my bottom as close to the wall as possible and then swing my legs up the wall with my feet on the wall. Again, I readjust my body and place my legs flat on the wall while my back stays flat on the mat. I keep all of the principles of alignment even in this quiet posture. My shoulder blades stay tucked on my back so that my heart lifts and opens; my legs hug in to the midline and my feet flex; my inner thighs spiral in towards each other. I tuck my tailbone so that my lower belly tones and finally I let my spine grow long on the mat as my legs extend up the wall. I can stay in this posture for several minutes.
Coming out of this posture requires a reverse of the movements that got me into this posture. With my feet flat on the wall, knees bent, I swing both knees to one side and move my bottom away from the wall. Then I use my hands to press up to sitting. As with all inversions, I move out of the posture with awareness, allowing the blood pressure, that has been lowered through the inversion, to increase gradually.