Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

In shoulderstand, we all look like giants – at least to ourselves, as we look up at our two feet towering above us.  Here are seven ways to bring the queenly pose of shoulderstand into your practice, one small step at a time.

1. Two cousins of shoulderstand help to open the upper back and neck: bridge pose, and supported bridge. These two poses are a good way to prepare the body when you’re not quite ready for shoulderstand.  One bridge variation that I really like is to put two bolsters end to end, and then lie down on them lengthwise.  Feet, legs, torso, and bottom of the shoulderblades are on the bolsters; top of the shoulders, neck, and head are on the floor.  (If it’s uncomfortable on your upper back or neck, slide further onto the floor; if causes pain in your lower back, put a blanket roll under your knees).  Lift the sternum toward the chest, and drink in the energy.  It’s a raspberry lime rickey, without the sugar! …Mid

2. One of my very favorite ways to enjoy shoulder stand is supported by blocks. I love any posture that allows me to be at ease….completely…  Come into an inclined plane and bring a block under your sacrum. Add another block if you want. Bring one knee towards your chest and raise it up towards the heavens. Then do the same with the other side. I like to then reach down and interlace my fingers and then gently roll my shoulders under. Ahhh bliss …Kim

3. Because shoulderstand can be risky on the neck, it’s important that you learn how to do it correctly.  Make sure that an experienced teacher demonstrates the pose before you attempt it yourself.  …Fay

4. To open up the shoulders for shoulder stand, I like to stand facing a wall with my toes touching the baseboard.  I extend right arm 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! …Mary Alice (click here for more on shoulderstand from Mary Alice)

5. Shoulderstand, or Salamba Sarvangasana, can be a powerful ally against the profound effects of gravity on the human body.  It’s important to protect the delicate cervical vertebrae in this posture, but when done with care, shoulderstand can actually strengthen the neck.  A regular practice of inversions — including shoulderstand — can positively influence the cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine systems of the body.  Under the guidance of an experienced teacher, shoulderstand can be exhilarating. ..Ann

6. If you begin to feel pain in your neck while doing shoulderstand or headstand, come down carefully, right away.  These are not poses to muscle your way through.  …Mid

7.  Shoulderstand…what a difficult pose it can be!  It’s the pose that I loved to hate, but that I have learned to love. The big question is always whether to support it or not support it with blankets.  It takes a lot of organization to teach and do with blankets and can tend to interrupt the flow, which is why you don’t see it more often in flow classes.  But because of its many, many benefits I make an effort to practice it and include it in my classes once in a while. …Fay

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