15 Sep **ONE MINUTE YOGA – SHOULDER BALANCE**
Shoulder Stand is a very effective posture when it is practised properly.
If you haven’t done this pose before I recommend learning it under a teacher’s guidance before you try it at home.
Step-by-step technique for the Shoulder Balance
Fold two or more firm blankets into rectangles, measuring about one foot by two feet, and stack them one on top of the other, or use yoga blocks. You can place a sticky mat over the blankets or blocks to help your upper arms stay in place while you are in the pose.
Lie on the blankets with your shoulders supported (and parallel to one of the longer edges) and your head on the floor.
Lay your arms on the floor alongside your torso, then bend your knees and set your feet against the floor with your heels close to the sitting bones. Exhale, press your arms against the floor and push your feet away from the floor, drawing your thighs into your front torso.
Continue to lift by curling your pelvis and then your back torso away from the floor, so that your knees come towards your face. Stretch your arms out parallel to the edge of the blanket and turn them outwards so that your fingers press against the floor (and your thumbs point behind you).
Bend your elbows and draw them towards each other. Lay the backs of your upper arms on the blanket and spread your palms against the back of your torso. Raise your pelvis over your shoulders, so that your torso is relatively perpendicular to the floor. Walk your hands up your back towards the floor, without letting your elbows slide too much wider than shoulder width.
Inhale and lift your bent knees towards the ceiling, bringing your thighs in line with your torso and hanging your heels down by your buttocks. Press your tailbone towards your pubis and turn your upper thighs inwards slightly.
Inhale and straighten your knees, pressing your heels up towards the ceiling. When the backs of your legs are fully lengthened, lift through the balls of your big toes so that your inner legs are slightly longer than the outer.
Soften your throat and tongue. Firm your shoulderblades against your back and move your sternum towards your chin. Your forehead should be relatively parallel to the floor, your chin perpendicular. Press the backs of your upper arms and the tops of your shoulders actively into the blanket support, and try to lift your upper spine away from the floor. Gaze softly at your chest. As a beginning practitioner, stay in the pose for about 30 seconds. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds to your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Then continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in the pose. Again, gradually add 5 to 10 seconds to your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes.
To come down, exhale, bend your knees into your torso again, and roll your back torso slowly and carefully onto the floor, keeping the back of your head on the floor.
* Stimulates the thyroid and prostate glands and abdominal organs
* Improves digestion
* Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
* Stretches the shoulders and neck
* Tones the legs and buttocks
* Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
* Reduces fatigue and alleviates insomnia
* Therapeutic for asthma, infertility and sinusitis
Contraindications and cautions
High blood pressure
Pregnancy: If you are experienced with the pose, you can continue to practise it late into pregnancy. However, don’t take it up for the first time after you become pregnant.
Modifications and props
Rolling up into Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana) from the floor might be difficult at first. You can use a wall to help you get into the pose. Set your blankets up a foot or so away from the wall (the exact distance depends on your height: if you are taller you will be further from the wall; if you are shorter you will be closer).
Sit sideways on your support (with one side towards the wall) and, on an exhalation, swing your shoulders down onto the edge of the blanket and your legs up onto the wall.
Bend your knees to right angles, push your feet against the wall and lift your pelvis off the support.
When your torso and thighs are perpendicular to the floor, lift your feet away from the wall and complete the pose. To come down, exhale your feet back to the wall and roll down.
If you are a beginner you may find that your elbows tend to slide apart and your upper arms roll inward, which sinks your torso onto your upper back, collapsing the pose (and potentially straining your neck). Before coming onto your blanket support, roll up a sticky mat and set it on the support, with its long axis parallel to the back edge (the edge opposite the shoulder edge). Then come up with your elbows lifted on, and secured by, the sticky mat. You can also use a strap around your elbows.
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