The following article was given to me by Usha Zelmer, a yoga instructor I used to practice with. Please see the comment section for a full Bibliography and further reading recommendations.
In Sanskrit sarv means “all”, anga means “body parts,” and asana means “pose” or posture. Thus, Sarvangasana is a posture that works the whole body. This pose benefits all parts of the body. It works on us from head to toe. Sarvangasana and its variations serve as an all purpose energizer, stretching ligaments and muscles of the cervical region, stimulating circulation, strengthening the back, toning the abdominal organs eliminating constipation and refreshing the mind. Some of the benefits are listed below:
1. Blood is drained away from the legs and brings relief for people suffering from varicose veins. In the inverted pose there is less pressure on the walls of the blood vessels of the legs. This enables them to contract and recover from continual strain.
2. It has beneficial effect on the sex glands of both sexes, arresting age degeneration. This pose is very beneficial to women suffering from misplacement of the uterus. In men it has a positive effect upon the prostate.
3. The internal organs and glands are all subject to pull of the gravity all day long. They hang in position as well as lean upon one another in one particular way all the time. When the body is inverted they hang and lean, as it were, upside-down. Parts of them are relieved of pressure and other parts are stimulated by different kinds of contact with other organs. In this position the internal organs, including the visceral organs, are immensely relaxed and nourished by the improved circulation of the blood. Shoulder stand also relieves gastro-intestinal disorders, dyspepsia, constipation, displaced uterus, hernia and varicose veins.
4. Sarvangasana massages the visceral organs and strengthens the abdomen, hereby counteracting the distention (sagging) of the abdomen.
5. Sarvangasana helps drain the abdomen, ridding it of blood stases in the viscera, and eliminates, at least temporarily, congestion in the lower abdomen. Congestion in the pelvic organs and premenstrual symptoms are alleviated.
6. (This pose) improves circulation to the spine, brain, pelvic area and is beneficial for menstrual cramps, hemorrhoids and urinary disorders.
7. (This pose) brings a plentiful supply of blood to the face, especially the forehead, where the skin at once becomes pink. It irrigates the brain, stimulating mental vigor, nourishing the skin and facial tissues, preventing, dispelling, and softening wrinkles.
8. Sarvangasana also increases the blood supply to the scalp and nourishes the root of the hair, thus preventing the loss of hair and greying of hair.
9. Sarvangasana is beneficial to the asthmatics. In this pose the pressure on the sternum against the chin inhibits breathing from the top of the lungs.
10. In this pose the blood flow soon concentrates at the location of the thyroid gland and the parathyroids. These glands are massaged and stimulated by the increased circulation of blood through it. Sarvangasana regulates body weight, normalizing both overweight and underweight conditions. Thyroid hormones are responsible for the metabolism. The parathyroid secretions regulate calcium and phosphorous metabolism.
11. The pull of gravity constantly tugs at the veins, arteries and the organs. In inverted poses all the systems of the body are free from usual gravitational forces. The inverted poses counteract the aging effects of gravity and rejuvenate the whole system.
12. Gravitational force is continually weighing us down and most of the weight gets settled downwards. In inverted poses the body weight is redistributed and normalized.
13. This pose improves the complexion and the overall condition of the skin of the face, improves the health of the salivary glands, improves the functioning of the eyes and ears, and actually stimulates and refreshes the brain.
14. The yogis also maintain the hardening of the arteries of the brain can be prevented through the years by the practice of the shoulder stand.
15. The inverted poses reduce the incidence and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats.
16. Sarvangasana cleanses ans boosts the immune system. The thymus gland is responsible for this.
17. Ancient yogis claim that inverted poses affect the flow of prana, or life force energy. They draw the prana inward toward the vital organs toward the core of the body and away from the surface. Inverted poses calm and smooth the emotions.
18. A long stay in the pose quiets and strengthens the nervous system, an invaluable gift! The recommended time to stay in Sarvangasana is to begin with one minute and increase it slowly to 3 minutes.
As you can gather from this wonderful article, Shoulder Stand is an amazing pose with tremendous benefits to your health and overall well-being. Practicing Sarvangasana daily will positively impact your practice and your life. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go practice my shoulder stand! Have a great day!