Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture

I'm feeling pretty evangelical about Shoulderstand these days.

"Sarvangasana" in Sanskrit, meaning "whole body pose," is often referred to as the Queen of all asanas. This Mother of all poses benefits pretty much any bodily system you could imagine, while at the same time being immensely calming, cooling, and restorative. It's often considered the Yin balance to the more Yang inversion, Headstand (the King).

When we were little girls, B and I used to flop all over the living room and roll into shoulderstand while we watched TV (probably The Electric Company or maybe Little House on the Prairie). That's partly why I love this pose so much; it's ultimately so organic, something that even as kids you roll into because it feels silly and good at the same time, not realizing how many systemic benefits you're getting along with the head rush.

I've found myself returning to Sarvangasana this spring after several frustrating bouts with bronchitis, laryngitis and other frustrating sinus crap. It's ideal for head colds and throat issues, because of the way the chinlock feeds the thyroid and the parathyroid glands. Not only do you nourish and flush out your endocrine and lymphatic systems, but you also shake up your circulation with the kind of inversion that rushes fresh blood into the head and lungs and away from stagnant pooling in your feet and legs. This particular pose isn't especially difficult; you certainly won't break into a cardio sweat from hanging out here for 3 minutes, although you will definitely feel the muscles in your back and neck opening up as you breathe through the posture. You'll also find your quads working hard, and another good step on the way to that tight yoga butt.

I've been finishing my daily practice with this pose for about six months now, and really feeling things opening up as a result. Take a few minutes in the morning or the evening to roll into this; it's easy to kick into after a few minutes in Plough, and it's also great for insomnia, depression and anxiety because of the calming and cooling Yin nature of the pose and the way it helps circulate fresh oxygen and blood to the brain. You really can't lose here. And it's a great natural way to achieve those kinds of benefits without resorting to the kinds of meds often prescribed for similar systemic conditions related to the thyroid, the spirit, circulation, etc.

If you struggle with the meditative aspects of sitting with this for a few minutes, start slowly and gradually build up to longer timing. Worst case scenario, flop into it in front of the TV and just enjoy sitting there while you catch up on your favorite reality TV show. I think B and I had the right idea 20 years ago doing just that, even if we didn't know we were massaging our thyroids in the process.

Supported Shoulderstand (Yoga Journal)


Anonymous said…
That would be in the family room, Sis, and little did you know I fancied my extended legs as a sort of synchronized swimming routine just for me, making leg shapes and scissor kicks with pointed and flexed feet, all in front of that afterschool PBS line up. It's funny you should blog about this today as MLS and I discussed this pose this weekend and an unfortunate gaffe that occurred during it...not to be printed here, you'll have to wait for the weekend to hear it.
My other memory of this playtime activity was that when I lifted up my legs I would usually get sprinkled with playground sand that had settled in the cuffs of my jeans...

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