• Francesca Matteoda

Preparation for sarvangasana

Oh my goodness! I knew it had been a long time since my last post, but I've just checked and it's been almost two months.... that's unforgivable! I am so sorry, but as usual, life got in the way and the days turned into weeks, weeks into months... I need to focus more and be more "yogic" in my attitude to life, otherwise I'll never get that endless list of to-dos done and will end up buried under a pile of papers.

Anyway, enough about me. I often get asked to teach sarvangasana, shoulder stand. I really like this posture and it has tremendous benefits, but it also has some contraindications that should not be taken lightly.

I'll list the contraindications before I go any further (in no particular order):

1) Eye problems, including recent surgery or glaucoma

2) Uncontrolled high blood pressure

3) Back problems: these can include hernias, bulging or slipped discs, lower back pain, surgery to fuse one or more vertebrae, etc.

4) Neck problems. When the pose is done correctly, the weight is mainly supported by the shoulders and arms, but it's easy to let some weight get transferred to the neck, so any kind of neck injury or even just undiagnosed pain is a big no-no for sarvangasana.

5) Pregnancy. If you practise yoga regularly, then you can continue to do sarvangasana so long as you feel comfortable, but I would urge newcomers not to do this.

6) Menstruation. This is a controversial point as some schools believe that you shouldn't do any inverted poses during menstruation, others say you should avoid them for the first three days, and others say nothing at all. In my opinion, there is no harm in doing sarvangasana during menstruation, so long as you don't hold the pose for a long time.Stay in it for 2-3 breaths, then come out gradually.

7) Hyperthyroidism (untreated).

Having listed that long and scary list of contraindications, I feel I should tell you about the wonderful benefits too!

1) Improves blood circulation, particularly venous return

2) Great for decreasing swelling in the ankles

3) Keeps you spine flexible and fit

4) Due to the position of the neck and chin, it compresses the thyroid gland and can help to activate it, so great if you have hypothyroidism (but to be avoided if you have the opposite!)

5) Helps digestion

6) It relaxes the central nervous system, so it's always a good idea to do it at the end of your practice. For the same reason, it can help get a better night's sleep.

Well, after all that, today we aren't actually going to do sarvangasana. I'm just going to show you some preparation you can do to get your back ready for the pose. In the next session I'll show you how to use blankets to help relieve the tension caused on the neck, and then finally we'll do the full pose.

The volume on this one is a bit low, don't know why, so please turn up your mikes!

I hope you enjoy this, and as usual, please don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions! NAMASTE




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