by Angela Clark
Before I go into the benefits or shoulderstand, let me just say this: shoulderstand was one of those poses that when it came up in class (and 15 years ago it always came up in class), I would feel the dread overtake me. It never felt good, I struggled to keep myself up without all pressure going into my wrists, and oftentimes my back would seize up after I came out of the pose. I would try everything - blankets, belts, bolsters- and it never felt good. But, like a good student, I continued to practice and finally found a way that made shoulderstand feel good.
So, all that is to say – I get it. I understand if you feel like shoulderstand is not all it’s cracked up to be.
But the benefits–well, they’re undeniable.
First off, shoulderstand is an inversion, which means it’s great for helping move the lymphatic system along, which can only be moved by gravity and muscle movement. The lymph system is responsible for waste removal, fluid balance, and helps the immune system. It also helps the blood passing through the veins of the lower body and limbs move back towards the heart.
Shoulderstand will help to strengthen the upper body, including the shoulders and those muscles around the upper chest cavity that assist the diaphragm in breathing. This will help you to take a deeper breath and in doing so, will help your central nervous system to relax.
It can also help relieve tension headaches due to tightness in the upper trapizius muscles.
Of course, there are contraindications to doing this pose too. If you have a loose retina, unregulated high blood pressure, or herniated discs in the cervical spine, it is recommended not to do shoulderstand (but you can always do legs up the wall also known as Viparita Karani, which is a more restorative version of the pose that does not require any pressure around the neck).