Pose of the Week: Salamba Sarvangasana Part 1

This week the pose is Salamba Sarvangasana. Salamba= accompanied by a support or prop, Sarvang= all, whole, entire, complete, Anga= limb or body, and Asana= posture or pose.

Therefore, the whole body benefits.  We know this pose as Shoulderstand.

Image: Natasha in Salamba Sarvangasana

This is the first inverted pose covered so far in the Poses of the Week. Inverted means the person who is practising the asana is upside down.

So, what’s the point of doing inverted poses?  There are a multitude of benefits.

BKS Iyengar says of Salamba Sarvangasana: “It is one of the greatest boons conferred on humanity …” (Light on Yoga, p. 170-1). So, if you’re not practising it you could be missing out!

It is because of the multitude of benefits that it is of paramount importance in Iyengar Yoga. And here at Yoga Path it is introduced in the Beginners Course to get a firm grounding and understanding of its importance.

On a physical level Salamba Sarvangasana builds strength in the shoulders, arms, abdomen and neck. The inverted position of the body due to the effects of gravity causes the blood to move downwards to the head, creating ‘pure blood flow through the brain cells’.  (BKS IyengarLight on Yoga, p.151)  This can result in improved concentration and clarity of thoughts.  When inverting the pressure differential across the body is reversed and blood floods to the brain with little work from the heart.

Image: Wednesday night Intro Level 1 students practice Salamaba Sarvangasana

It can also stimulate the pituitary and pineal glands creating balance in the endocrine system through stabilising hormonal structure. Shoulderstand does this for the thyroid and parathyroid glands, located in the neck region, due to the position of the chin towards the chest in Jalandhara Bandha. It is also said to improve chest and throat conditions such as breathlessness, colds and nasal problems, palpitations, asthma, bronchitis and throat ailments (Iyengar, Light on Yoga, p.171).  

Digestion is improved due to the relief of the downward pressure on the stomach and digestive organs caused by gravity.  Urinary disorders, menstrual problems, piles and hernia may be relieved.  The movement of blood away from the legs can relieve pressure in hip, knee and ankle joints and can reduce swelling in the legs caused by build up of lymphatic fluid. Inversions also strengthen the immune system.  

The nervous system is stimulated creating alertness, relieving stress and mild depression, while promoting a sense of calm.

BKS Iyengar says, “Its mastery gives one balance and poise, both physically and mentally“ (Light on Yoga p.143).  Here we move past the physical and physiological benefits.  In developing “its mastery” we move from learning the structure; that is, the fundamental points, to absorbing into the asana to feel the flow of the energy or intelligence from the gross periphery towards the centre.  As shoulderstand is generally held for a minimum of 5 minutes we are faced with the opportunity to observe the mind and to explore the balance required and the resulting sense of poise.  Facing the fear of overbalancing sets up new conditions in the mind.  Exploring the sense of stillness comes when the practitioner opens him/herself to the true sense of balance.

See you on the mat 🙂

Learn Yoga in Newport with us. Understand what Iyengar Yoga is and how it influences our teaching methodology