Shoulderstand is known as the mother of the asanas (poses).  This is a counter pose for headstand, meaning it should be practiced following headstand to relieve pressure on the spine.  This is a wonderful cooling pose with amazing benefits and several modifications to make it suitable for almost anyone.

Sanskrit:  Sarvangasana

shoulderstand on blankets

Physical Benefits:

  • strengthens the upper body
  • opens the chest
  • stretches the neck, shoulders and upper back muscles
  • stimulates circulation and energy flow through the neck to the brain and body
  • improves digestion and elimination
  • relieves fatigue
  • aid to insomnia and exhaustion
  • soothes and nourishes the whole body
  • strengthens the nervous system
  • activates the thyroid and parathyroid glands

Emotional benefits:

  • relaxing
  • soothing
  • calms and rejuvenates the body and spirit
  • nurturing effect on the emotional body

How to practice:

  1. lay on  your back and raise your legs in the air
  2. keep your legs and feet together, bend your knees and stretch your torso upward
  3. with palms up, press your elbows into the floor and support your back with your hands
  4. raise your trunk and legs higher and bring the chest toward the chin
  5. straighten your legs until they are vertical
  6. tuck your shoulders under your back until your upper arms are parallel and squeeze them toward each other
  7. continue to stretch through the toes and reach to the ceiling
  8. stay for 5-15 minutes
  9. to come down, simply release the hands and come down

Contraindications (when should you not do shoulderstand):

  • first 3 days of your menstrual cycle
  • cataracts
  • detached retina
  • cervical spine (neck) issues such as herniated discs or injury
  • high blood pressure
  • ear problems


  • use 2 blankets in a long fold; lie with shoulders and arms on the blankets and head on the floor
  • begin with legs up the wall, place soles of the feet on the wall and use the strength of the legs to lift you up

Feel free to add comments or questions below.  Enjoy your practice and may it help us heal the body, mind and spirit.

Namaste~ Liz


Elizabeth Delaney