Chair Shoulder Stand is a great restorative asana that helps students gain all the benefits of practicing inversions, without the anxiety of practicing this asana without the support of props. As you probably guessed, this is the restorative variation of the Shoulder Stand asana, or in Sanskrit Sarvāngāsana (sahr-vaahng-AAH-sah-nah). Another variation of this asana would be Supported Shoulder Stand, or Sālamba Sarvāngāsana (sah-LOM-bah sahr-vaahng-AAH-sah-nah), where the hands are placed on the lower back to help support the hips. In all variations, this asana inverts the body which increases blood flow to the head. This helps to alleviate nasal congestion, lessons strain on the heart, and improve digestion. This asana, in all variations, is also known as the mother of all poses because it benefits the whole body.

In order from most to least difficult, Shoulder Stand would be the most difficult, then Supported Shoulder Stand, and then Chair Shoulder Stand. Since we are focusing on a Restorative Yoga class, we will discuss the supported variations of this asana (Supported Shoulder Stand and Chair Shoulder Stand), as they are less stressful on the body and will encourage relaxation. First, lets look at Supported Shoulder Stand.

 

As you can see, Supported Shoulder Stand still requires students to have a strong core in order to get into the pose. However, props can be used to make this variation more comfortable. For example, a blanket can be used to support the neck, or this asana can be practiced against a wall for support. Even though props can be used to provide comfort in this variation, typically Chair Shoulder Stand is what will be practiced in a Restorative Yoga class. However, it is important to have a working knowledge of the traditional asana, and different variations, so that you can knowledgeably direct your students.

As stated above, Chair Shoulder Stand is typically what you will see in a Restorative Yoga class. This is because the support of the chair takes pressure off the student, allowing them to relax into the asana. This enables them to focus on calming the mind instead of putting all of their focus into balance. For a full break down of how to practice this asana, refer to your textbook “RESTORATIVE YOGA FOR LIFE”.

Next, lets discuss the benefits and contraindications.

Benefits
• Strengthens and stretches the neck, shoulders, chest, back, spine, abdomen, hips, glutes, biceps, triceps, quadriceps and hamstrings. Great for runners.
• Calms the mind, body, and nervous system, which helps relieve fatigue, anxiety, stress, insomnia, mild depression, and tension. Tension is especially relieved in the shoulders, neck, head, spine, chest, and back when the head and torso are supported.
• Improves digestion by massaging internal organs, and the abdominal muscles. Also stimulates the thyroid, parathyroid, and prostate glands, improves the metabolic rate and endocrine system, and relieves colitis.
• Stimulates the cardiovascular system increases blood supply to the cervical and thoracic region, assisting the parathyroid, pituitary and pineal glands and stretches the heart, as well as increases circulation in the throat and stimulates the thyroid gland. This helps sooth menstrual and menopausal discomfort and aids with headache / migraine pain, digestion, and constipation.
• Improves the reproductive system. Relieves hemorrhoids and hypertension.
• Improves the Respiratory System by opening the chest and breathing through the diaphragm, which is therapeutic for students with asthma, bronchitis, congestion, throat ailments, sinusitis, and relieves sinus pressure. Also relieves palpitations and breathlessness.

Contraindications
1. Students with severe shoulder, neck, back, or spinal injury / inflammation, severe spondylitis, slipped disc, have a severe heart condition, headache, high blood pressure, diarrhea, are pregnant or in their menstrual cycle, have an enlarged thyroid, liver, or spleen, or have a throat or ear infection should modify, seek guidance from a qualified teacher, or avoid this pose.
2. Students with mild spondylitis or have minor heart concerns should seek guidance to practice this pose.
3. Students who experience shoulder or neck pain should immediately come out of this pose.

To finish the discussion on this asana, see below for what chakra is affected and how the doshic balance is affected.

Chakra
Chakra Five:Throat, Visuddha, Vissudha, Vishuddhi, or Vishuddha (purification) Chakra. This is the communications and sympathetic vibrations chakra. Its goals are clear communication, creativity, and resonance. Its location is the throat.

Doshas
VataThis dosha is balanced in this asana.
PittaThis dosha is increased in this asana.
KaphaThis dosha is decreased in this asana.


Additional information on this asana

  • In the textbook “YOGA: THE PATH TO HOLISTIC HEALTH by B.K.S. Iyengar
    • CHAPTER 4: ASANAS FOR YOU
      • Inversions
        • Salamba Sarvagasana (Shoulderstand)
    • CHAPTER 5: YOGA FOR STRESS
      • Asanas for Stress
        • Salamba Sarvagasana (Shoulderstand)

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