Supported shoulderstand and variations

Teddy bear in shoulderstand pose

Feeling a bit jaded with your classic straight up supported shoulderstand (salamba sarvangasana)? Last week in my classes we looked at shoulderstands and several of the variations you can do. For the gentle/beginners’ class the options were:

  • legs on a chair (lie flat on the mat, calves resting on a chair seat)
  • legs up wall (viparita karani – see this how-to video, or this how-to article also listing its benefits)
  • shoulderstand preparation (soles of feet on wall, thighs vertical, bottom lifted off the floor supported by hands)
  • shoulderstand practice with alternate legs lifting away from the wall (from the previous position)
  • full shoulderstand.
Teddy bear in shoulderstand pose
Image by Caroline Egana on Flickr

The first two options were particularly for yoga students who didn’t feel that it was appropriate for them to be in this inversion, either for menstruation reasons or for other contraindications such as neck issues, detatached retina or high blood pressure.

There are lots of benefits of shoulderstands, and inversions in general, so the chair and legs-up-wall options are safer alternatives for some people. For some in the class it was business as usual, but for others it was the first time they had been upside down for years, decades even. A great feeling for them to achieve either a semi or full shoulderstand. For details about some of these variations, and contraindications, read this article.

In the intermediate class we went through a range of the differnet leg positions that are possible once you are safely up in full shoulderstand. These included:

It wasn’t acro-yoga or partner yoga, so we didn’t attempt any slightly crazy versions such as reverse shoulderstand as demonstrated by me in the picture below. Braver souls than me can let go of the other person’s ankles.

Partner shoulderstand
Me in reverse shoulderstand, acro-yoga style, ably supported by Bongo.

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