Pose of the Month: Shoulder Stand
By Gwen Lawrence
Sometimes called the candle pose, or Queen pose. Shoulder stand translated from the Sanskrit name is “all Limbed” or “whole body.” It is named due to the benefits it provides to the entire body. Shoulder stand has many roles among them—relaxation pose, inversion pose, and gentle stretching pose, revitalizing pose.
How to: Shoulder stand
Laying flat on the floor, with your arms along side your body. Place your palms face down. Exhaling, bend knees into your chest, keep pressing down through your hands and arms until your toes are as close to the ground behind your head. You should look as though you are in a seated forward bend only upside down. It is important to position your arms under you and keep them shoulders width apart. Do this by interlacing your fingers together underneath you and squeak the shoulders under you. You should be resting on the shoulder blades. Doing this is important because the cervical vertebrae number 6 sticks out a little further than the rest—when your result is resting on the shoulder blades you avoid #6 grinding into the floor. Now bend your elbows—keep your upper arm (shoulder to elbow) shoulders width apart—and place your hands flat on your back. As you advance in the pose your hands will be closer and closer to your shoulder blades, and your legs will be straighter and straighter, stretching your hamstrings (back of the thigh). This will create an eventual 90 degree angle in your neck. While holding the pose concentrate on your breathing, pressing down through your upper arms and up through your legs and feet. Also gently squeeze your inner thighs together. While holding, check out your leg lengths and look for symmetry. Check the rotation of your legs—looking to see the direction your knee and feet point. Adjust them so they are even and equal. Beginners should bend knees into their foreheads and eventually work to straighten the legs out.
Benefits of Shoulder Stand
The role of the Shoulder stand is important. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:
- Helps with lymph drainage, as an inversion pose.
- Gets the Thyroid gland functioning better, and more efficiently. Thyroid is the gland responsible for managing your metabolism.
- Promotes good circulation to brain.
- Great stretch for the neck and upper back.
- Is beneficial to people with constipation, indigestion, asthma.
- Great for woman suffering form painful menstruation.
- Increases blood flow to brain therefore helps headaches, congestion, and sore throats
- Stretches the spine keeping it long and strong.
- Tones the legs and abdominals.
For the lay person or yogi, shoulder stand opens and strengthens the upper shoulder girdle, and stretches the back of the neck. Since it is an inversion pose and nourishes the brain, it offers a rich supply of blood therefore a flood of oxygen to the organs and glands of the upper body. Pressure is taken off the lower extremities; this is like super charging sitting with your legs up. You will relieve the pressure and swelling of the feet and legs that result from tough longs days at work and play. Just getting extra blood flow to the brain and face and head will give a tired day the boost and glow you need to continue. All this will give you the clearer head you may need to continue with long nights of studying, or intense business meetings.
For the athlete, besides the aforementioned benefits shoulder stand is a great pose of assessment. As I mentioned before while you are holding the pose you are in a perfect position to check the leg length and look for imbalance that may need adjusting. Being aware of your leg length difference will give the athlete the clues you will need to realize possible low back knots or tightness. Should stand is a great stretch for the neck. This is critical for high contact sports such as hockey and football. These athletes often find themselves in twisted predicaments. If the neck is supple enough to have the chin touch the chest, then the risk of injury in a game situation is greatly reduced. The best part of shoulder stand for the athlete is the reverse lymph flow. It heels the swelling of feet and legs and reduces the “heavy” post game leg. I often have my athletes hold this pose for 10 or more minutes, to help them get their quickness back. Beginners should always start with a 30 second to 1 minute hold and work up to a longer time.
Although you should always consult your Physician and research a properly trained teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely:
* If you have thyroid disease.
* If you have High Blood pressure.
* Any disorders or injuries to the neck or cervical spine.
* If you have Glaucoma or Detached Retina. Shoulder stand could worsen the condition.
Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body.