This week in our classes we have been doing a peak pose of Sarvangasana, or Shoulder Stand. A number of you have dropped me a line after classes saying how much you have enjoyed the yoga this week and in particular Shoulder Stand. Knowing that this pose is often described as the “Queen” of poses in yoga – but I have never questioned why? After your lovely feedback, I thought I would investigate and share my findings!
There is no doubt that yoga provides a lot of health benefits and depending on which poses you do, it will provide different benefits. If you imagine that the adult body is approximately 60% water, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water and the lungs are actually 83% water (according to the Journal of Biological Chemistry). In Yoga we twist and stretch the body which moves fluids around as well as massaging internal organs – and that is before you even look what we do to muscles or what Yoga can do for our mental health, reducing and releasing stored up emotions and stress.
Below is a list of the generally agreed benefits of shoulder stand, most of which are easy to justify.
Benefits of Sarvangasana
Calms the brain and helps to relieve stress and mild depression
It stimulates the thyroid and prostrate gland
Helpful for menstrual problems
Stimulates the abdominal organs – as you go upside down
Stretches the shoulders and neck
Tones the legs and glutes (buttocks)
Helps to relieve symptoms of menopause
Reduces fatigue and alleviates insomnia
Stimulates and exercises the lungs and diaphragm - improving breathing
Therapeutic for asthma and sinusitis
Helps many ear, throat and nose disorders
Lots of these benefits are easy to justify when you start to look at the physiological effects of putting your body into the pose. When using a blanket to create space around the back of the neck you protect the neck, whilst definitely stretching the neck, shoulders and back and stimulating the thyroid gland.
The lift of the body into the pose, will strengthen the glutes and legs as well as your core. Sarvangasana is quite a powerful pose to lift into, but once there, the body can be relaxed a little to enable you to soak up the benefits of being upside down, without having to take the weight on your arms, or head! Don't worry about trying to get too upright - jut enjoy being upside down!
Being an inversion, it helps the body to drain excess fluid from the legs back towards the core of the body from the legs, allowing the lymph system to process waste material from your muscles. It allows the blood to flow back from the legs into the heart, reducing the strain on the heart and allowing more blood to go to the head and brain, which is both invigorating and revitalising, resulting in increased energy and mental stamina and reduces stress.
It also provides a sense of achievement for just giving it a go and enjoying being upside down.
That is a pretty phenomenal set of benefits! While I think it is completely justifiable to be called the QUEEN of poses - it is clearly beneficial for everyone.
Remember that if you do practice Shoulder Stand at home to warm up all the relevant muscles in shoulders and neck and also to do a counter pose! In this case Fish pose!
Matsyasana - Fish Pose
Tim Brew - November 2020