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How to Do Yoga Shoulder Stands

These shoulder stands go from easiest to toughest. Each of these three Yoga shoulder stands provides common benefits: improved circulation to your legs, hips, back, neck, heart, and head. The postures all stimulate your endocrine glands and improve your lymphatic drainage, enhance elimination, and produce a calming and rejuvenating effect on your nervous system.

Due to the neck’s vulnerability, consider preceding these postures with a dynamic (or moving) bridge posture to prepare the neck and follow it with a short rest and then a dynamic cobra posture to compensate.

Don’t attempt any of these postures if you’re pregnant; have high blood pressure or a hiatal hernia; are overweight, even moderately so; have glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or neck problems; or are in the first few days of your period.

Half shoulder stand at the wall

This posture is a variation of viparita karani and is perhaps the easiest way to pick up the half shoulder stand in a step-by-step fashion. The wall provides support as you build experience with the shoulder stand exercises.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor, your toes just touching the base of a sturdy wall, and your arms extended along the sides of your torso with your palms down.

  2. Place your soles up on the wall so that your bent knees form a right angle (with your thighs parallel to each other and your shins perpendicular to the wall).

    You may need to slide your buttocks closer to or farther away from the wall to get the angle just right.

  3. As you inhale, press down with your hands, push your feet to the wall, and lift your hips as high as you comfortably can.

  4. Bend your elbows and bring your hands to your lower back.

    Press your elbows and the backs of your upper arms on the floor for support. Relax your neck.

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  5. As you exhale, take one foot off the wall and extend that leg until you’re looking straight up at the tip of your big toe.

    You can use just one leg at a time and switch or raise both legs together. If you alternate legs, divide the time evenly between each leg.

  6. Stay in Step 4 or 5 for as long as you feel comfortable or up to 5 minutes.

    When you want to come back down, slowly place one foot and then the other on the wall and finally lower your pelvis slowly to the floor.

Reverse half shoulder stand at the wall

The reverse half shoulder stand at the wall is also a variation of viparita karani. Some people find this exercise easier than the half shoulder stand at the wall. Try them both and see which one is more comfortable for you.

To try this one, follow these steps:

  1. Lie on your back with your head toward the wall at a full arms distance from the wall with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor at hip width; bring your arms back and rest your arms along the sides of your body, palms down.

    image1.jpg
  2. As you exhale, push your palms down, draw your bent knees in and up, and raise your hips to a comfortable angle of 45 to 75 degrees.

    Be sure that your legs are straight but your knees aren’t locked and that your feet are directly above your head.

  3. Bend your elbows and bring your hands to the back of your pelvis and then slide your hands up to your lower back.

    Press your elbows and the backs of your upper arms on the floor for support.

  4. Let your toes slowly and gently touch the wall for support; relax your neck.

  5. Stay in Step 4 for as long as you feel comfortable, or up to 5 minutes.

  6. When you want to come down, ease your hips to the floor with the support of your hands and then bend your knees and lower your feet to the floor.

Half shoulder stand: Viparita karani

You can work up to this posture by developing comfort with the half shoulder and reverse half shoulder stands at the wall. It lets you enjoy the benefits of inversion without compressing your neck like a full shoulder stand does.

The Sanskrit word viparita (pronounced vee-pah-ree-tah) means “inverted, reversed” and karani (pronounced kah-rah-nee) means “action, process.” Some authorities call this practice sarvangasana, meaning “all limbs posture.” The word is composed of sarva (pronounced sahr-vah) and anga (pronounced ahn-gah) followed by asana.

When you feel you’re ready, follow these steps:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor at hip width, resting your arms along the sides of your body with your palms down.

  2. As you exhale, push your palms down, draw your bent knees in and up, and then straighten your legs as you raise your hips to a comfortable angle of 45 to 75 degrees.

    image2.jpg
  3. Bend your elbows and bring your hands to the back of your pelvis and then slide your hands up to your lower back.

    Make sure your legs are straight but your knees aren’t locked and your feet are directly above your head. Press your elbows and the backs of your upper arms on the floor for support. Relax your neck.

  4. Stay in Step 3 for as long as you feel comfortable, or up to 5 minutes.

  5. When you want to come down, first ease your hips to the floor with the support of your hands and then bend your knees and lower your feet to the floor.

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