Asana name: Shoulderstand

Sanskrit name: Sarvangasan

Meaning: Shoulder Stand

General Benefits:
The Jalandhar Bandha improves the function of the thyroid, parathyroid and pituitary glands. All of the other endocrine glands are regulated by these main glands and so the overall function of the endocrine system is improved. This results in the improved functioning of all other systems of the body. The thyroid gland is improved due to the increase oxygen and blood as well as by reducing excess emotional and mental stress which affects the thyroid. Stagnant blood from the lower regions of the body, i.e. legs and abdomen is drained to the heart thereby improving the supply of fresh blood to these parts and the whole circulatory system. Blood supply to the head area i.e. brain, eyes, ears, nose and throat is improved thereby improving their functioning. Therefore all of the pelvic and abdominal area circulation, ear, throat and nose ailments are improved. The lung capacity is increased as the diaphragm, which is the muscle of respiration, has to work against gravity in this posture, this helps in the abdominal respiration and is therefore helpful in the treatment of asthma. Toxins in the respiratory system are drained thereby improving the respiratory system. Prevents and cures varicose veins. Detoxification of the body due to improved efficiency of the organs of the body which leads to youthfulness and anti-ageing effects. Normalizes body weight due to its effect on the thyroid. Due to the effect this asana has on the hormonal system, particularly the thyroid, it balances the circulatory, digestive, reproductive and nervous system. Due to the increased blood flow to the head the mind is tranquilized, stress and psychological disturbances are removed. The increased blood flow can be beneficial for those who suffer from headaches, though it should not be practiced at the time of headache. The thymus gland is stimulated which boosts the immune system. It balances the parathyroid glands that ensures regeneration and normal development of the bones. It releases the normal gravitational pressure from the anus muscles which helps with haemorrhoids. The nerves passing through the neck are toned and the neck flexibility is increased. The digestive system is greatly improved due to the increase in blood circulation and drainage of stagnant blood. The pranic flow is harmonized, increasing energy and having a positive effect on all the body systems. Sarvangasana has all the benefits of Shirshasana but is safer and easier to perform.

Benefits for Women:
Beneficial for menstrual disorders.

Therapeutic Applications:
Thyroid disorders. Asthma. Reproductive problems. Headache. Haemorrhoids. Varicose veins. Prevention of cough and colds. Diabetes.

Taking the Position:
In supine position exhale and while inhaling, contract the abdomen and slowly raise both legs to a 90 degree angle from the floor. While exhaling raise the waist and the hips from the floor and take the legs backwards over the head. While inhaling raise the back and the legs up into a vertical position, placing the hands on the upper back for support. The chin should rest against the chest, creating the chin lock. Gaze towards the toes and maintain the asana, breathing normal.

Releasing the Positions:
Inhale and while exhaling bend in the waist and lower the legs over the head, releasing the hands from the upper back. Inhaling slowly lower the back to the floor, vertebrae by vertebrae, keeping the legs at a 90 degree angle from the floor. Exhaling slowly lower both legs back to the supine position. Relax your body and breathe normally.

Anatomical Focus:
Neck, shoulders.

Anatomical Awareness:
On core area, throat.

Keep the legs straight in knees with toes pointing to the sky. Try and keep the body in a straight line from the chest to the tips of the toes. Head straight and eye sight fixed on the toes. Make sure that the trunk is raised enough vertically so that the chin can comfortably rest against the chest.

Bend the knees. Move the neck or overstrain it in the chin lock position. Bring the legs over the head when in the asana position but don't keep them completely vertical if it causes tension. Raise the head from the floor. Tense the legs or point the feet.

Precautions & Contraindications:
Should not be performed by people suffering from high blood pressure, heart conditions or brain diseases. Should be avoided during menstruation and pregnancy. Should be avoided if suffering from a very enlarged thyroid, enlarged spleen or liver as well as cervical spondylitis, slipped disc, headache and weak blood vessels in the eyes.

Variations & Tips:
One may need a folded blanket under the neck and shoulders for support. For some beginners it may be difficult to raise the legs straight. If so then one can bend the knees a little while taking the position and then straighten out the legs. Generally it is easier to hold the position than to come into the position as there is less stress on the abdominal and spinal muscles, however there is more stress on the upper back muscles.

Preparatory Poses:
Dwi Pada Uttanpadasana. Viparit Karni.

Follow-up Poses:
Matsyasana is essential to practice after Sarvangasana to counter balance the effect of the Jalandhar Bandha. Otherwise an asana that bends the head backwards like Bhujangasana or Chakrasana. Halasan, Vistrut Pada Halasana, Karnapeedanasana and Ashwini Mudra.