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Why you should practise the shoulder stand, Sarvangasana

I’m sure you can remember doing plenty of shoulder stands as a child with your friends… Such a shame we all lost our inhibitions as teenagers and stopped doing them because actually they’re hugely beneficial for the body in many ways. So much so that it’s something we should be doing on a regular basis.

When I first teach this posture to a beginner I can see the look of horror on their face – surely I don’t expect them to go straight into a shoulder stand?? But a lot of people have the muscle memory within their body to get them up there and, as with every yoga posture, you have adaptations and progressions to get into a posture that feels right for you. Once you’ve learnt the numerous benefits you’ll be racing to practise it yourself!

Physical benefits

The first benefit of this posture, by bringing the chest towards the chin and encouraging the constriction in the throat, is to stimulate the thyroid gland. This regulates the function of the thyroid and can in turn stimulate your metabolism. If you are not producing enough of the hormones from your thyroid you can feel sluggish, have trouble sleeping and experience a lot of joint and muscle pain as well as struggling to lose any excess weight.

Alongside this, it generally balances the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. Yes, being in the shoulder stand benefits almost every system in the body! Its influence on the parathyroid glands ensures normal development and regeneration of the bones. Abdominal breathing is induced, improving the exchange of air in the body, relieving stress and massaging the abdominal organs. Shoulder stands also release the normal gravitational pressure from the lower body, relieving haemorrhoids and varicose veins as well as toning the legs, abdomen and reproductive organs, draining stagnant blood and fluid, and increasing circulation in these areas. Flexibility in the neck vertebrae is improved and the nerves passing through the neck to the brain are toned. Circulation is increased in this area generally, revitalising the ears, eyes and tonsils.

Mental and emotional benefits

It’s not only physical benefits you will notice by practising this posture; it also tranquilises the mind, relieves mental and emotional stress, and helps to clear psychological disturbances, boosting the immune system. It is a great way of tuning out – enabling you for a short time to completely shut out the mind chunter or any cares and worries.

Easier than you think, promise…!

The good news is that this is not a highly advanced posture and completely unattainable – you don’t need to be an expert to do it. Within a small amount of time I see people go from being unable to get their hips off the ground, to a full shoulder stand. As with most forms of exercise it just takes time to build up but, by having a regular practice you will build strength in the shoulders, arms and abdominals, allowing you to easily make your way onto your shoulders and relax here, letting the magic happen!

Of course there are a few circumstances where it is not advised to practice this posture, for example if you have high blood pressure or any heart ailments, as well as an over-active or enlarged thyroid. Its always best to consult a teacher before starting yoga and they will be able to guide you on what you can and cannot do if you do suffer from any medical problems.

Why you should practise the shoulder stand, Sarvangasana