How to Do Supported Shoulderstand Pose in Yoga (Guide to Salamba Sarvangasana)

Supported Shoulderstand is a yoga inversion. This pose is often called the queen of all yoga postures in yoga tradition due to its countless benefits.

The literal translation of the Sanskrit name Salamba Sarvangasana is “all limbs with support pose.” The “support” refers to your hands, which hold your torso upright when your legs are up in the air. There are also variations of shoulderstand without hands, called niralamba in Sanskrit, meaning “unsupported”.

The original name of the shoulderstand mentions “all limbs,” meaning you’ll work on all of your limbs during the pose – using arms to hold you and engaging your legs to keep them straight over the head. This pose not only strengthens your entire body but also has tons of other benefits, making it one of the most important poses to master and continually practice in yoga.

“Salamba Sarvangasana was first mentioned in 15th-century Indian text Hatha Yoga Pradipika, under the name Viparita Karani.,” says Yoga Answered contributor Sara Popovic. “The main goal of the pose in yoga tradition of those ages was to raise the Kundalini, the divine feminine energy, upwards towards the top of the body. In this manner, it teaches the body to hold and block the power of consciousness and to prevent unnecessary loss of prana or life force. This explanation gives an additional, deeper value to this already incredibly beneficial pose.”

Supported Shoulderstand Pose Quick Look

Sanskrit Name: Salamba Sarvangasana
Pose Type: Balancing Yoga Poses, Inversion Yoga Poses
Difficulty Level: Beginner pose
Targets: Full Body
Benefits: Shoulderstand strengthens the back, abdominal muscles, legs, glutes and stretches the neck and shoulders. It also stimulates the abdominal organs and aids in regulating hormones and digestion. It can help the body get rid of excess phlegm and mucus and reduces fatigue, anxiety, and stress. It also improves positive energy, concentration, and memory.
Preparatory Poses: Plow pose, Bridge pose, Hero pose

How to Do Supported Shoulderstand Pose Step-By-Step

  1. Start lying on your back with your arms by your sides, and your legs extended. Then bring your feet close to your buttocks and bend your knees, just like when preparing for Bridge pose.
  2. Engage your core to lift your hips and legs off the floor. Bring your knees close to your face and elevate your torso over your head. Then bend your elbows, and place your hands on your back to support your weight. Keep your elbows shoulder-width apart.
  3. Now lift your thighs, so they’re in the same line with your torso. Draw your tailbone in and straighten your legs.
  4. Your neck and head should be in line with the spine. Do not turn your head in this position.
  5. Hold the pose for up to 30 breaths, or as long as comfortable.
  6. To release, bring your feet to the ground behind your head for Plow pose. Then, release your hands to the floor, and roll your body down, vertebrae by vertebrae.
  7. Counter this pose with a back bend, such as Fish pose.

Beginner’s Tip

Make sure you focus on good alignment to reap all the benefits of the pose – keep your neck, head, and spine in line, engage the abdomen, and maintain a straight line from your back all the way to your feet. Your legs should be active, and you shouldn’t splay your elbows outwards. When coming out of the pose, make sure you do it slowly and actively – avoid falling on the ground without awareness.

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