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What Is a Sarvangasana?

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  • Written By: Samantha Bangayan
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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A sarvangasana is an inverted yoga pose and is also known as a shoulder stand, particularly used in hatha yoga to balance the body after performing backbends. The Sanskrit word “sarvanga” means “whole body,” while “asana” refers to a yogic pose. This is a pose that can benefit the whole body, which is why it’s also referred to as the queen or mother of yoga poses. Sarvangasana benefits include the stretching and strengthening of different parts of the body, stimulation of different organs, and relief from stress and tiredness. As an advanced pose, sarvangasana should always be practiced under the supervision of an experienced yoga practitioner.

The starting position of sarvangasana is corpse pose or savasana, in which the body is flat on the floor. The palms of the hands are flat on the ground with the arms straight and close to the body. Upon exhaling, the legs are slowly lifted up until they eventually reach over the head. The toes actually touch the floor behind the head, while the legs are kept straight and together. During another exhalation, the legs are straightened such that they point straight toward the ceiling, 90 degrees to the floor, while the buttocks are lifted.

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A yoga practitioner perfects the position by using the hands to support the back while straightening the length of the body until it’s perpendicular to the floor. The elbows stay on the floor in line with the shoulders. The body should be fully supported by the shoulders, not the back, as the upper arms and shoulders push into the floor for added support. While balancing and attempting to hold the position for as long as possible, a person breathes normally through the nostrils. To come out of sarvangasana, the legs slowly drop down toward the ground and the body relaxes into corpse pose or savasana by lying flat and still.

The effects of sarvangasana can benefit the mind and the entire body. Aside from stretching and relieving tension in the shoulders and neck, this pose also strengthens the lungs, lower back, legs, and buttocks. Sarvangasana practice rejuvenates by improving blood and oxygen circulation throughout the body, especially to the heart and brain, which leads to better attention and concentration. Regularly practicing sarvangasana is said to contribute to overall health by improving digestion, regulating the hormonal and nervous system, reducing fatigue, and relieving stress. This pose may also relieve other conditions, such as asthma, anemia, and sinusitis, and may aid with infertility, back pain, varicose veins, and menopause.

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