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Benefits of Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and How to Do it By Dr. Himani Bisht

By Dr. Himani Bisht +2 more

Introduction: 

Yoga is a rich treasure with techniques beneficial for physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. In this era of expensive pharmacotherapy with innumerable side effects, it is difficult to manage diseases like hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, cardiovascular conditions, obesity, and diabetes.  

sarvangasana benefits

Therefore, introducing physical exercise like yoga can gradually hasten the recovery processes. Though it evolved and flourished in India, the introduction of yoga in western culture gained much popularity and has become a statement of an optimum lifestyle in upper-middle classes.1 

Yoga involves a lifestyle that requires maintaining certain postures (Asanas) along with controlling breathing, thoughts, and enchanting mantras (recital phrases), unlike other exercises that focus on muscle stress, repetitive movements, and heavy breathing. In yoga, body is relaxed and blood requirement is reduced. This is opposite to aerobics, zumba and other exercises that increase the workload on heart to pump more blood. Yoga triggers the neuronal hormones that add significant benefits to mental and spiritual well-being.1            

One out of the countless postures in yoga is the ‘Shoulder stand’, also known as Sarvangasana. 

Did you know?

What is Sarvangasana?  

Over the years, I have found that practising Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand Pose) can help counteract the pooling of blood in the legs and abdomen. This pose involves elevating the legs above the heart, which promotes return of the blood from the organs and improves overall circulation.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Sarvangasana is a posture where the whole body is balanced on the shoulder and is therefore, also known as a Shoulder stand. 

Sarvangasana constitute 3 words “Sarva”, “anga” and “asana”. “Sarva” means “all”, “anga” means body part and “asana” means posture. As the name indicates, Sarvangasana is the posture involving the whole body. 

It is referred to as the Queen of asanas because it maintains the physical and mental health of an individual.2 

Asanas that involve postural inversion are not part of traditional practice, as the three classic hatha yoga texts do not mention these postures. They have only recently gained more popularity with increased visibility through social networks.3 It is the most effective way to streamline the body and mind. It may help in attaining peace, containment and happiness. 4 

Also Read: Benefits of Sirsasana (Headstand) and How to Do it By Dr. Ankit Sankhe

How to do it? 

By regularly practising Sarvangasana, you can improve your posture, relieve back discomfort, and enhance overall spinal health. I recommend practising Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand Pose) to alleviate stiffness in the back muscles caused by poor posture or prolonged standing. This pose involves stretching and lengthening the back muscles, helping to release tension and improve flexibility.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Sarvangasana or shoulder pose is to be practised in the presence of trained yoga professionals. The steps to be followed while performing this asana are: 

  • Lie back on a folded blanket keeping the head, spine, and legs aligned with feet together. 
  • Place your hands beside the body with the palms facing towards the ground. Relax your body and mind.  
  • Taking support of your arms, raise your legs slowly in the vertical position, contracting the abdominal muscles. 
  • Press the arms and hands down once your legs are straight in a vertical position. 
  • Roll off the buttocks and spine from the floor, slowly hovering the trunk to the vertical position. 
  • Place your hands, turning the palms upward, below the ribcage allowing your elbows to bend. 
  • Press your chest against the chin gently. 
  • To reach the final position, the legs should be vertical aligning the trunk and shoulders must support the neck and back of the head with the chest resting against the chin. 
  • The arms should provide stability to the body. 
  • Close your eyes, relax your body and hold it as long as it is comfortable. 
  • Returning to the original position should be a slow and smooth process. 
  • Gently bring your legs forward, keeping them straight and feet above and behind the back. 
  • Place your arms beside the body, palm facing down. 
  • Smoothly and gradually bring each vertebra to the floor followed by the buttocks. 
  • Legs should resume the initial straight and vertical position.  
  • Keeping knees straight, bring down the legs to the floor slowly. Do not take the support of your arms. 
  • The balance of the body should be controlled while performing this asana. 
  • Relax until your breathing and heart rate becomes normal. Shavasana (corpse pose) is the preferred posture post shoulder stand as it is the restorative pose which helps in relaxation of body at the end of a session. 
  • Breathing should be maintained throughout the Sarvangasana. 

Do not strain your body by holding the final position for long during the initial practice. Increase the duration gradually from three to five minutes. Perform Sarvangasana only once during the yoga session.2,5 

Also Read: Benefits of Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and How to Do it By Dr. Ankit Sankhe

Do You Know? 

It is interesting to know that sarvangasana is occasionally referred to as the “Mother of all asanas” along with the “Queen of all asana”. Shoulder stand posture helps in nurturing and protecting the entire body, just like a mother would do for her kid.2 

Mammals like bats, hang themselves in the inverted position (sarvangasana) on the tree to hide and maybe feel safe from predators. 

The happy hormones like dopamine or serotonin are also secreted while performing sarvanagasana. 

Benefits of Sarvangasana: 

Sarvangasana offers several benefits to improve physical and spiritual health. Some of the potential benefits are: 

1. Benefits of Sarvangasana in enriching blood supply 

Sarvangasana may improve the blood supply to the brain. There is an increased influx of blood to the brain during the shoulder stand position. This increased influx can also help in nourishing the hair and hydrating the scalp, thus helps in preventing hair loss and improving hair growth.  

Increase in blood supply to facial muscles may lead to glowing skin. The greater blood flow may also help in keeping ourselves active and energized.2 

2. Benefits of Sarvangasana in stimulating thyroid hormone 

Sarvangasana may help in decreasing the production of thyroxin hormone responsible for causing hyperthyroidism.  The inverted position during shoulder stand allows the heart to pump the blood to the brain and the thyroid gland and helps in curing the thyroid related disorders. The potential benefit of the blood flow during Sarvangasana is on the respiration, increasing the digestive and excretory processes and strengthening the nervous system, which is controlled by the thyroid and parathyroid glands. When the thyroid gland functions properly, all of the above-mentioned systems of the body work effectively.2 

3. Benefits of Sarvangasana in controlling Diabetes Mellitus 

Kumar et al. 2017 mention a study involving 20 patients with diabetes (increased glucose level) subjected to 40 days of yoga, involving sarvangasana as one of the postures, showed a decrease in glucose levels and changes in insulin levels. The shoulder stand pose improves the functioning of pancreas, responsible for insulin production. The enhanced insulin production may help in decreasing the risk of diabetes. The involvement of asanas or postures in daily life does not have any adverse effects, and can be used as an alternate means to improve health.4,5 

4. Benefits of Sarvangasana in patients with low blood pressure 

The shoulder stand may help in increasing the blood pressure of the patients with low blood pressure. A study conducted by Naidu, S.T. et.al., 2015 on postural inversion in yoga and its effects on cardiovascular parameters, mentions that there was an increase in diastolic and systolic blood pressure during the sarvangasana. The increase in blood pressure depends on various factors especially the population (healthy or on patients with blood pressure fluctuations) performing the sarvangasana.3 

 5. Other benefits of Sarvangasana: 

  • It may rejuvenate the entire body relieving tension and sluggishness.4 
  • It may also tone the endocrine gland responsible for producing hormones.4 
  • It may help maintain the balance.3 
  • It may also help in improving digestion.5 
  • It may help in increasing concentration and cognition.3 
  • It may also help in colitis (inflammation in the colon).5 
  • It may also help in relieving improving asthma with practice.5 

Also Read: Benefits of Halasana (Plough Pose) and How to Do it By Dr. Himani Bisht

Risks of Exercise 

Some of the contraindications related to Sarvangasana are: 

  • It should be avoided by patients with high blood pressure.2 
  • Patients with diabetic retinopathy (weak eye capillaries) and near-sightedness should avoid shoulder stand.2 
  • People suffering from headaches or migraine must avoid shoulder stand yoga.2 
  • Sarvangasana should be avoided in patients suffering from a slipped disc, weak spine, or vertigo.2 
  • Pregnant and mensurating women should avoid doing sarvangasana. 
  • Asthmatic patients should perform breathing exercise before doing shoulder stand.2 
  • Individuals suffering from cold, sinusitis, and tuberculosis must avoid performing Sarvangasana or shoulder stand.2 
  • Patients undergone abdominal and spine surgeries should avoid performing shoulder stand pose. 
  • Atherosclerosis (deposition of fat/cholesterol in the wall of the arteries) and cerebral thrombosis (blood clot in the brain) patients should not perform shoulder stand.2 
  • It can cause stress on the cervical and upper part of the body. This can lead to pain, discomfort and injury to the neck.3 

The important point to consider while doing postural inversion is to perform it smoothly and slowly and it should be only practised with a trained yoga teacher.   

Conclusion 

Tension and stress are part of everyday life, but they should not affect the mind and body. Performing sarvangasana helps de-stress by relieving the pain and increasing the blood supply to all parts of the body. However, it is necessary to follow precautions while performing sarvangasana to avoid the associated physical risks. Given the rising popularity of postural inversions in yoga, through social media, it is important to do additional research on the benefits and risks. 

Also Read: Benefits of Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) and How to Do it By Dr. Himani Bisht 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the other name of Sarvangasana? 

Sarvangasana is also known as “shoulder stand”. It is an inversion posture where the whole body is balanced on the shoulder.2 

Who should avoid Sarvangasana? 

People suffering from high blood pressure, slipped disc, vertigo, atherosclerosis, cerebral thrombosis migraine, pregnant and lactating women and people with diabetic retinopathy and who have undergone surgery should avoid shoulder stand. Sarvangasana should also be avoided in patients suffering from cold, flu and sinus problems.2 

What is the time limit for Sarvangasana? 

For beginners, the final position of Sarvangasana or shoulder stand should be held for a few seconds. It can be gradually increased with the practice for about three to five minutes.2 

What are the benefits of Sarvangasana? 

The shoulder stand or Sarvangasana may help in improving blood circulation and digestion. It may also help in rejuvenating the body and maintaining balance and posture of the body. Sarvangasana may increase blood pressure, which can be used as a potential benefit for patients with low blood pressure.4,5 

How many times can we practice sarvangasana in a day?  

This asana should only be performed once at the end of completion of other asanas during the yoga session. An easy relaxing posture after performing sarvangasana or shoulder stand is Shavasana (corpse pose).2 

References 

  1. Jayasinghe SR. Yoga in cardiac health (a review). European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 2004 Oct 1;11(5):369-75. https://academic.oup.com/eurjpc/article/11/5/369/5932628?login=false
  1. Waldia V. A REVIEW STUDY ON THE EFFECT OF SARVANGASANA ON HYPOTHYROIDISM. https://wjpr.s3.ap-south-1.amazonaws.com/article_issue/1531725361.pdf
  1. Naidu ST, Cavalcante FS, Silva RP. POSTURAL INVERSION IN YOGA AND ITS EFFECTS ON CARDIOVASCULAR PARAMETERS. https://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:m_laiD56r6cJ:scholar.google.com/&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5  
  1. Kumar YS, Nishi J. Yoga and Diabetes Mellitus: Recommendations and Benefits-Systematic. International Journal of Ayurvedic & Herbal Medicine. 2017;7:2651-5. http://interscience.org.uk/images/article/v7-i4/3ijahm.pdf
  1. Aili S. Role of Yoga in Preventing and Controlling of Diabetes Mellitus. Journal of Advanced Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacology Interventions. 2021 Sep 23;4(1):1-9. http://www.medicaljournalshouse.com/index.php/PharmaceuticalSci/Pharmacology/article/view/665  

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