If you’ve read “Light On Yoga” by B.K.S Iyengar, you’ll know that this yoga master prizes Shoulder Stand, or Sarvangasana, as one of the most healing postures out there.
If you look in the back of that book, he outlines different postures that are good for healing different conditions. Shoulder Stand shows up in almost every single one of his disease state remedies. If it’s good enough for Mr. Iyengar, then it’s good enough for me (and most likely you)!
Shoulder Stand can be performed with no props, or it can be done with several folded blankets (for shoulder support and creating space for your neck), with a chair, with straps, and with blocks.
Basically, you can do this pose with as many or as few props as works best for you. If you do have any head, neck, shoulder, or spinal issues, I would highly suggest working with a teacher the first few times you try this posture to make sure you’re doing the safest version for yourself.
Here are the top five health benefits of Shoulder Stand.
1. It aids digestion.
Holding yourself in an inverted position reverses the effects of gravity on the digestive organs, helping stimulate the movement of stuck wastes, relieving gas pains, and inducing an overall restorative effect on your digestion. It’s best to practice this pose before you eat or a few hours after, to avoid acid reflux.
2. It helps relieve swollen legs.
Holding your legs above your heart for an extended period of time will help your body access the great force called gravity. Gravity will work to pull excess fluids out of your legs, ankles, and feet. This pose will also help relax the muscles in the upper legs, making way for an even greater drain.
Doing a more supported version of the pose so that you can hold it longer is best in cases of swollen feet, ankles, or legs.
3. It helps calm a headache.
Reversing the effects of gravity can help alter your blood pressure—which can be just what the doctor ordered if you’re suffering from a tension headache, or from a headache caused by a change in blood pressure.
Hanging out upside down for a while and allowing gravity to do its work may just nip your headache in the bud. Doing some slow rhythmic breathing while you’re at it will double the effectiveness.
4. It relaxes the mind.
This posture is considered cooling because your eyes and head are turned in towards your heart. Any posture that has your head moving toward your chest will help you cultivate an inward-focused energy, and will help soothe a racing mind.
This pose is just as effective as any other Forward Fold for accessing a deep relaxation state.
5. It improves circulation to the upper body and brain.
Like in point two, the powers of gravity will be sending more blood—and thus more oxygen and nutrition—to your upper body and head while you’re in your Shoulder Stand. You may find that after a long hold your mind feels refreshed, sharper, and more focused due to the increased blood supply.
Have you ever practiced Shoulder Stand on a regular basis, or used it to deal with a physical issue you were having? What were your results? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!