Inversions are a key part of yoga practice. If you only do Bikram yoga you may not have inversions as a part of your practice yet — and they might seem intimidating. After all, what’s so great about being upside down?
However, there are a range of benefits to your physical body and your mind. Literally looking at the world from a different perspective opens your mind. It makes you more flexible mentally and emotionally, as well as physically. Also, there’s a reason kids love to do headstands and handstands — it’s fun!
Shoulderstand, or Sarvangasana (pronounced sar-vaan-GAH-sa-nuh) is a powerful posture. It nurtures our earth element, giving us the capacity to stop and get grounded and helps us be still and reflect (water element). The Yoga Journal has an excellent article that details how to practice Sarvangasana. For the full article click here.
1. Fold two or more firm blankets into rectangles measuring about 1 foot by 2 feet, and stack them one on top of the other. You can place a sticky mat over the blankets to help the upper arms stay in place while in the pose. Then lie on the blankets with your shoulders supported (and parallel to one of the longer edges) and your head on the floor. Lay your arms on the floor alongside your torso, then bend your knees and set your feet against the floor with the heels close to the sitting bones. Exhale, press your arms against the floor, and push your feet away from the floor, drawing your thighs into the front torso.
2. Continue to lift by curling the pelvis and then the back torso away from the floor, so that your knees come toward your face. Stretch your arms out parallel to the edge of the blanket and turn them outward so the fingers press against the floor (and the thumbs point behind you). Bend your elbows and draw them toward each other. Lay the backs of your upper arms on the blanket and spread your palms against the back of your torso. Raise your pelvis over the shoulders, so that the torso is relatively perpendicular to the floor. Walk your hands up your back (toward the floor) without letting the elbows slide too much wider than shoulder width.
3. Inhale and lift your bent knees toward the ceiling, bringing your thighs in line with your torso and hanging the heels down by your buttocks. Press your tailbone toward your pubis and turn the upper thighs inward slightly. Finally inhale and straighten the knees, pressing the heels up toward the ceiling. When the backs of the legs are fully lengthened, lift through the balls of the big toes so the inner legs are slightly longer than the outer.
4. Soften the throat and tongue. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, and move the sternum toward the chin. Your forehead should be relatively parallel to the floor, your chin perpendicular. Press the backs of your upper arms and the tops of your shoulders actively into the blanket support, and try to lift the upper spine away from the floor. Gaze softly at your chest.
Questions or thoughts? Share in the comments!