Hump Day Yoga: Shoulder Stand

>> Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Today's pose -- the Shoulder Stand (or Sarvangasana) -- benefits your body by promoting good circulation. It's also just a fun pose to do. And despite the looks of it, Sarvangasana can even help relax your back and neck -- two areas runners tend to stress during training.

If it looks a bit crazy for you, you may also do a supported shoulder stand. Instructions can be found on the Yoga Journal website. And according to the folks at Yoga Journal, there are many more benefits to striking this particular pose . . .
  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Stimulates the thyroid and prostate glands and abdominal organs
  • Stretches the shoulders and neck
  • Tones the legs and buttocks
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Reduces fatigue and alleviates insomnia
  • Therapeutic for asthma, infertility, and sinusitis

SHOULDER STAND (or Sarvangasana)
  1. Lie flat on your back. Inhale deeply while raising your legs and spine until the toes point to the ceiling.
  2. Rest your body on your shoulders/back of the neck. Much of the support will come from your hands, which is good because you don't want to stress your neck -- that's actually the opposite of what you want. 
  3. Try to keep your spine as straight, as perpendicular to the floor as possible. As you can see, I was unable to be completely straight, but that's OK.
  4. Breathe. In fact, breathe some more. The key to this pose is deep breathing.
  5. Hold the position for 60 seconds. Then work up to 90 seconds or more when you're more comfortable.
  6. To come out of this posture, bend your knees, gently curve your back, and slowly (SLOWLY) return to lying on the floor while exhaling.
You know I love my animated GIFs. So, to give myself a reason to make one, I'm also providing instructions for how to move from a Shoulder Stand into a Plow Pose (or Halasana). As you can see, you simply (and ever-so slowly) lower your legs down, down, down, until they are above your head. For more detailed instructions -- as well as benefits -- see below.

PLOW POSE (or Halasana)
  1. Again, start in the Shoulder Stand pose. Then slowly lower your legs until they are parallel with the floor, feet over your head. The key is to do this slowly.
  2. From here, you may lower your hands to the ground -- or, like me, keep them supporting your back.
  3. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds at first, then work up to longer as you feel comfortable.
  4. Coming down from the pose is also something that should be done with care. You back is your main concern, so push back up into the Shoulder Stand . . . and then follow the instructions above for how to come down from it.

According to Yoga Journal, the following are benefits of the Plow Pose (Halasana):
  • Calms the brain
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs and the thyroid gland
  • Stretches the shoulders and spine
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Reduces stress and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for backache, headache, infertility, insomnia, sinusitis
Previous Hump Day Yoga posts:
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