Ten Reasons to do a Shoulderstand Every Day.

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Photo credit: Neeta Lind

Sarvāngāsana (shoulder stand) is known as the Mother of yoga postures.

The Mother creates happiness and health in the home—likewise, this posture creates happiness and health in the body.

This is why it is called Sarvāngāsanasarvā means everything and angā means limbs. Therefore, it transliterates as the posture that is good for every aspect and every limb of the human being.

Here are 10 specific benefits of practicing this particular pose every day:

1. It bathes the lymph nodes in fresh lymph by increasing the circulation around the lymphatic system. This nourishes the whole body.

2. Inverting the body from the neck up means that gravity increases the venous blood flow to the heart, brain and eyes. This relaxes the heart and decreases the heart rate, and it brings clarity to the mind and sight.

3. It lengthens the spinal nerves, which relieves tension in the head, neck and shoulders.

4. According to the authoritative text, Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iygenar states, “persons suffering from breathlessness, palpitation, asthma, bronchitis and throat ailments get relief from this posture.”

5. It is excellent for those suffering from thyroid disorders. Shoulder stand brings balance and regulates the hormone secretion of both the thyroid and parathyroid glands in the neck. This indirectly is very good for flexibility.

6. It soothes the nervous system. This is an excellent posture for those who suffer from stress, tension, anxiety (high blood pressure, only if it is taught by an expert yoga teacher) and shortness of temper.

7. It is excellent for sleep. Shoulder stand helps those who are suffering from insomnia.

8. It increases energy when practiced in the mornings. It lifts and sustains one’s energy levels dramatically when practiced every day. Therefore, it is especially good for those suffering from a fatigued body and mind.

9. It is excellent for fat loss. It increases the metabolism. It strengthens digestion by returning “agni” (fire) to the abdominal organs—liver, spleen, pancreas and stomach.

10. When done correctly shoulder stand tones the muscles of the gluteus, back, thighs and abdominals. This will benefit your balance and stability.

There are many other benefits of shoulder stand. These are just a few of the main ones.

Women should not practice shoulder stand during menstruation. There are also contraindications for shoulder stands if you have neck pain or injury, so shoulder stand should only be practiced under the guidance of a good yoga teacher.

Marcus Julian Felicetti became a yoga teacher soon after discovering yoga at university. His classes are fun and passionate and often intense. They offer students the chance to go deep within and connect with their breath and release their emotions. Marcus communicates his love of yoga through guiding each student with insight and compassion, weaving ancient wisdom with simplicity and an emphasis on the student’s experience. His primary objective is to teach a system of yoga that fully integrates the body, mind and spirit, and channels that energy to its highest potential and purpose. Marcus continues to grow his own yoga practice every day while passionate about helping others connect to theirs. He teaches private one-on-one yoga in Sydney and his business, Bodhi Yoga, teaches quality corporate yoga classes in Sydney.

Editor: Jamie Morgan

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anonymous May 18, 2015 5:19am

I had read somewhere that sarvangasana should be performed before the all asana. Can you please tell me as I am also performing pranayam .

anonymous May 8, 2015 9:12pm

Shoulder stand has done all of these things for me. I'm excited that I'm strong enough again to resume that part of my practice!

anonymous Apr 7, 2015 9:32am

I used to do these as a kid, long before I ever knew what yoga was. I’m pregnant and wondering if this (my favorite yoga pose) is safe while pregnant? I never see it in any article of poses recommended while pregnant. Also, does Elephant have any good articles for pregnancy in general?

anonymous Apr 7, 2015 8:27am

"Women should not practice shoulder stand during menstruation." No. this is not substantiated by anything other than superstition." and is often just said in class without any explaination. Women need to know that it is FINE to do a headstand/handstand/shoulderstand when menstruating.. And be wary of male teachers that say you can't!

    anonymous Dec 17, 2015 7:51am

    Or also female teachers that say you can't… Right???

anonymous Nov 19, 2014 4:40am

This article is very excellent. I didn't know about Sarvāngāsana benefits. After read this article i know about benefits. Sarvāngāsana has very good benefits . I keep up these benefits. Thank so much for share the information.

anonymous Oct 22, 2014 10:36am

I haven't done shoulder stands in years. I used to do them for hours in middle school. No idea how I even came up with the idea, but I loved how it felt. When friends came over, I made them do them too, so we would have these great conversations while our feet were up in their air. I'm sure my friends thought I was nuts. I do Sun Salutations first thing every morning, but rarely do other yoga. Suddenly today, it occurred to me that shoulder stands would be a good idea. Thanks for a great post!

anonymous Nov 28, 2013 3:31pm

Life is about beliefs and you are fashioned after what you believe.Yoga requires a significantly high level of belief of individuals who practise the poses to gain health benefits- the human mind is inextricably involved in these efforts.One has to agree and confirm within oneself that the shoulderstand does accomplish what is written regarding its therapeutic values.

anonymous Sep 10, 2013 7:55pm

Shoulderstand puts the neck into a maximally flexed position that is never used in real life function. Imagine walking around with your chin on your chest all of the time to get an image. The nuchal ligament which connects from the occiput of lower skull to your cervical vertebrae is designed to keep your neck from flexing too far. When practiced overtime, shoulderstand loosens the necessary ligament tension and leads to a flat neck even after you come up to standing from the pose. What happens when you have a flat neck spine? You loose the shock absorbing forces and also a flat neck transfers force to the front of the vertebrae stimulating weight bearing surfaces to grow extra bone or spurs which can lead to pain, numbness and headaches. Also discs can become compressed by losing your neck spine curve. Shoulder stand does not bring more blood flow to your brain or your glands either so the claims of better gland function is a myth. There is a blood brain barrier of special cells designed to keep excess blood flow out of your brain which could damage your arteries. Another danger is that the contraction of your neck muscles by trying to stay in that unnatural position can actually press on your vertebral artery to your brain and restrict blood flow. Shoulder stand benefits are myths and there is no science to support these claims. Try YogAlign instead.

    anonymous Sep 14, 2013 4:11am

    ok i see where your coming from… first i commend you teaching from anatomical perspective, being precise in placing of the limbs arms bones to keep a correct spine and head positions…i tried viewing one of your vids, but bad connection….
    getting back to your point of SS, never used in real life function. looking at most of the pics in your website, what real life function do they have except for tadasana and dandasana, sitting cross leg,. all others would be considered not good according to your critique of SS…
    not all SS are created equal, in Iyengar yoga we always teach with support under the shoulders, thereby not putting neck into max flexion…one should be able to breath normally and when i demo i am able to speak clearly….SS is an upside down tadasana, as is sirsasana….if one learns tadasana with proper alignment as you teach, and no neck or BP or eye contraindications, it is a boon to practitioners….Do you not think inverted poses have any benefit? I guess with your experience level you disagree with a yogi who has been practicing and teaching yoga for 80 years, and continues to delve deeply into the subject……Many Drs go and learn from BKS Iyengar in india esp in his medical classes, in which he uses all of the basic poses normal students do… with support of course…
    My believe and trust goes to a teacher and teachers under the iyengar system. it is based on the yoga sutras, and precision and use of props to uphold ahimsa… Yoga is much more than Asana, but we in the west teach it as the main path…
    Iyengar Yoga teaches me all alignment that i need to know….thank you
    good luck with your endeavors…but keep an open mind….we are much more that skin bones muscle nerves etc….

anonymous Sep 10, 2013 8:42am

With some cervical disc arthritis I always use 4 folded blankets to ensure a soft neck.

anonymous Oct 29, 2012 1:51pm

[…] first poses in the womb were Warrior 1 and Shoulder Stand. Needless to say, it was not too comfortable for his mother. A year after his birth, Lincoln […]

anonymous Sep 4, 2012 6:09pm

[…] Ten reasons to do a shoulder stand everyday […]

anonymous Aug 20, 2012 11:11am

as Mr. Iyengar says , in the Tree of Yoga, after the words of the teachers and the books the student must make the words his/her own knowledge. Experience will answer.

anonymous Aug 20, 2012 10:16am

[…] Ten Reasons to do a Shoulderstand Every Day. ~ Marcus Julian Felicetti […]

anonymous Aug 18, 2012 11:39pm

Hi Marcus, thanks for the article. I have a question, and I mean this in the most respectful way, but could you possibly cite any peer-reviewed, published, scientific research to substantiate these claims? I have come across these (and similar) claims many times over the years, but I find it difficult to identify tradition, lore, and science, respectively. I feel that it's a very important distinction to make. Of course I believe there is tremendous value in Ayurveda, but are we clear with our students when we are claiming medical health benefits based on [our understanding of] ancient wisdom? Might they assume/trust that we have some degree of knowledge/training about the therapeutic effects of yoga? We all learned these things in teacher trainings, certain well-known books, lectures…. but does that make them true? I'm not claiming to know, I'm really asking this sincerely because it matters to me as a student and as a teacher.

    anonymous Aug 22, 2012 2:37am

    would really like to see a reply to this commenter!

    anonymous Sep 14, 2013 3:27am

    hi as you know there are not many studies re effects of yoga in general, but NIH has conducted studies, look those up, there have been several on effects of the relaxation reflex by Roger Core???? google that…in India have many studies, but not recognized much by USA medical community….many medical Drs go and study with BKS Iyengar in india in their medical classes, where they treat many conditions not helped by western medicine….Yogasana/Pranayama are experiential you learn as you do, you proof to yourself the claims made by the Gurus….as mentioned above…
    another reason for not many studies it is expensive and no big company/pharma will fund it because there is no money in it for them…they only fund RX studies that will make big profits….
    I put my trust in a teacher who has studied practiced experimented with his own body for 80 years, has taught millions of students around the world, and continues to dig deeper into this subject at age 95….he describes Yoga as an Art and a science, the body is the lab and the asana is the experiment….and he says sometimes it is a failed experiment….

anonymous Aug 18, 2012 7:35pm

Excellent reminder of the many benefits of Sarvangasana.

Not so good: the position of the blankets under the neck of person closest to the camera (in the photograph).

The top of the shoulders should be in line with the top of the folded blanket.

The person next to the person closest to the camera has it right — the neck is free.

The person closest to the camera, no.

    anonymous Sep 14, 2013 3:09am

    i agree but the person you say is correct has his head stuck on the mat, this can create compression of the cervical spine, when i teach this pose i make sure the head is on the floor no the mat so that the head can slide and lengthen, as one goes up on the shoulders… i see many people doing this so some system out there teaches it this way, maybe for comfort for the back of the head but they don;t consider that most people will not be able to release and lengthen…

anonymous Sep 10, 2013 4:18am

Shoulder stand when practiced with the chin tucked toward the chest as shown with the student nearest the front puts loaded flexion on the cervical discs and can be very dangerous . I know several yoga teachers in their 50’s who attribute their cervical disc problems to years of shoulder stands . The correct cervical curve is essential in this pose and is hard to attain without a teacher who is skilled in alignment watching you. Precision is hard to attain and the risks of this pose may outweigh the rewards .

anonymous Sep 14, 2013 3:33am

i agree that this pose done incorrectly over time will be damaging, yoga should be right actions, a good teacher would not allow any of those in the pic to go up. the one furthest away has no support and head is on the mat…ouch… where is the teacher?
also this pose in iyengar yoga is not taught in the beginning, we usually teach support halasana feet to a wall or support, but students must be able to get thoracic spine in and be on top of sholders…
not all yoga styles are the same…..also not all Teacher trainings…