Yoga is often an antidote for feeling sluggish or anxious. Through the practices of pranayama and asana one can easily bring the energy up or down depending on what you need. What do you do if you want to tone and balance your energy?
Along come Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and its variations. This asana is known as the Queen of Yoga because of its balancing qualities and many benefits. It has a unique place in the field of asana because it stimulates both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems simultaneously, hence, balancing your energy.
Here is a series of variations that you can do together or separately depending on your personal practice. I do not recommend this series for those with any neck issues. Also, if you begin the series and at any time, your neck is uncomfortable, STOP. Always check with your doctor to see if yoga and inversions, especially, are safe for you. If you have never done shoulder stand before, I recommend that you take a workshop with a certified instructor for individual help with this asana.
1. Start with two or three blankets to help support the angle of the neck. Notice that my shoulders are 2"-3" away from the folded edge and solidly on the blankets. Also notice that my occiput (back shelf of my head) is on the mat and not on the blankets.
2. Bend your knees and lift your hips. Place your hands on the back of the pelvis for a Supported Shoulder Stand. You can stay here for up to 30 seconds or build up to 5 minutes over time. If you are doing the other variations in this series, stay for a shorter time.
3. While supporting the back of the pelvis, take the legs away from the wall into Shoulder Stand. Stay for several breaths, composing the duration with the overall series.
4. Extend the legs with soft knees so that the feet move toward the ground for Halasana, commonly known as Plow. Stay for several breaths, composing the duration with the overall series.
The following are more challenging poses for those that are very comfortable with Shoulder Stand and practice it regularly:
5. Lift the legs back into Shoulder Stand and for a more challenging version, extend the arms in a 'V' shape above the head. For a real challenge, lift and lower the legs for a serious core workout. Lift and lower the legs several times before moving on. Use the breath to stabilize and create fluidity.
6. Re-extend the legs and soften the knees until they hug the ears for Karnapidasana or commonly known as Ear Pinching Pose. Stay for several breaths, composing the length of time with the overall series.
7. Bend the knees and come into Padma Sarvangasana or Lotus in Shoulder Stand. This is a lovely place to find status and calm. Lengthen the arms and encourage the knees to move upward, pause here with the arms extended for a few breaths. Return to Shoulder Stand and reverse the process to come down and roll off the mat.