With social media and magazines saturated with stunning and advanced asana photos, it is easy for the ego to take over and push the body past points of safety. The desire to look picture perfect in various poses rather than listen to the body can do more than harm the mind, it can harm the body.
Supported Shoulderstand Pose (Salamba Sarvangasana) not only balances the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems, it can also cause significant long-term damage when performed improperly.
Supported Shoulder Stand Pose can be a fun and healthy addition to asana practice when preformed properly. Here are some common misalignments in Supported Shoulderstand Pose (and How to Fix Them) to help keep your practice safe!
Misalignment: While flexibility and toning of the neck vertebrae improves flow of nerves passing through the upper region of the spinal column to the brain, too much constriction and bending of the neck can lead to internal bruising and trauma.
Neck trauma is one of the most common yoga injuries and is most closely associated with misalignment and poor form in Headstand and Supported Shoulderstand poses. Constricting the neck at an angle less than 90 degrees between the head and the torso can lead to problems with the vertebral arteries (clots, swelling, and constriction).
How to Fix It: The angle between the head and the torso should range from 90-110 degrees. To create more space for the neck, the shoulders can be elevated on a blanket and the head can rest over the edge of the blankets and rest gently on the ground.
Yogi Tip: Raise the chest to the chin to activate the thyroid gland rather than causing neck trauma and trying to force the chin to tuck into the chest.
Misalignment: While this pose is called Supported Shoulderstand Pose, the shoulder placement is often overlooked and focus is more on the body’s vertical positioning to the ground.
Too much weight on the cervical spine while in a flexed position can make the body vulnerable to injury.
How to Fix It: Starting with the shoulders, the foundation of Supported Shoulderstand Pose is the shoulder girdle. The shoulder girdle is the set of bones (clavicle and scapula) connecting the arm to the axial skeleton on each side and is a complex of five joints.
In Supported Shoulderstand Pose, the body must be strong to keep the scapula in an elevated, adducted, and downwardly rotated position while withstanding the weight of the entire body.
Misalignment: Although weight is often cued to be in the triceps and shoulders, the hands rarely get as much attention. Long-term practice with weight displacement can lead to wrist pain and joint damage.
Additionally, it is common that only the index fingers are pressed against the back.
How to Fix It: Place the palms on the back with the thumbs pointed towards the front of the body and the finger tips reaching towards the sky. Place equal weight in both hands and push in and up against the back ribs, focusing on the ring and pinky fingers lifting the spine.
Yogi Tip: Over time, when core strength has increased, take the hands away from the back for a moment to press the shoulder blades in (increased downward rotation and adduction of the scapulae).
Gently return the hands and notice that the hips will be lifted higher and the hands will be placed closer to the upper spine.
Misalignment: Finally, the core collapses as the elbows slide apart and the upper arms roll inward, which can strain the neck. It also limits the body’s ability to breathe by decreasing the space for the lungs to fill and decreasing the diaphragms mobility.
How to Fix It: Keep squeezing the arms together and lifting the upper arms up and out to protect the neck. Opening the chest by lengthening the clavicles from the sternum as well as slightly tucking the pelvis and lengthening the body towards the sky activates the abdominal and back muscles.
Yogi Tip: A strap lightly placed around the triceps can be a friendly reminder to utilize the arms as well as lift the core, hips and legs.
Do you have any alignment tips or fixes for Supported Shoulder Stand Pose? Please share them with us below!