How to keep your neck safe in Shoulderstand

5 min read

I was in one of my first “real” yoga classes after years of practicing in a gym setting. It was the end of class, and my teacher cued Sh “ulde” stand, one final inversion before Savasana. I looked around the room and thought, “I can do that,” and I did. It’s only in hindsight that I know that I wasn’t yet ready for this powerful pose. “Many yogis swe” r by ShouldeIt’snd, but it has also been noted as the riskiest yoga pose. Utilizing modifications, choosing alternatives, and using the breath as a guide will help you protect the precious and delicate bones in your neck from injury.

On and off the mat, yoga requires us to develop discernment. Not only are we asked to choose, but also to choose wisely. From Mountain Pose to Savasana and Shoulderstand, we should practice all of our poses with an open mind and a sharp heart. We shouldn’t do something just because we are capable of doing it.

How to keep your neck safe in Shoulderstand

Heshouldn’tmodifications to Shoulderstand that will help you get the most out of the pose while minimizing the risk to your neck. No one with high blood pressure or glaucoma should attempt inversions.

Try a Block

A block can be used to alter your Shoulderstand. Lean backward with your knees bent. Set your soles evenly into the earth. Place a block at the lowest level possible under your sacrum, which is the triangular area below your lower spine and above your tailbone. The block should be placed about equal to your waistband. Lift one leg gently into the air, then the other. The block should support your lower body completely and safely (the sacrum is a flat surface made up of fused bone). If you feel that the block is not helping your lower body, place your feet on the ground. Then, adjust the block. You can keep your hands by your side, palms facing up if seeking energy, or palms facing down if wishing to center and ground. You can gradually move up to the high or medium setting if the low setting feels comfortable. Be sure to check your neck and upper back for any discomfort or pain. Listen to your body as you would with any posture. Lower or remove the block if necessary.

Go Spidey Style

It is easy to overlook the wall as a great prop for yoga classes. Do not be afraid to move your mat and get up to use this wonderful resource. Spiderman can help you modify the Shoulderstand by using the wall. As you come to your back, bring your legs up against the wall. If you want to stay in this position, it’s a good option for an inversion. Start by walking your feet up against the wall while keeping your knees bent. Your hands should be placed on your lower back to support you. Release your elbows and put them on the mat. You can lift one leg at a time as you become more confident in the pose. As you move your legs up the wall, the pressure on your head increases. Take your time and be mindful. The gentlest approach is sometimes the best.

Soften with Blankets

Three square-folded blankets should be placed on the floor. Lay down on your back with your shoulders and head resting on the blankets. Your neck and head should be free to fall to the mat beneath. Put your elbows under you and start to pull your knees towards your chest. For balance and support, bring your hands down to your lower back. As you improve in this position, you can experiment with raising one or both of your legs towards the sky. The blankets act as a cushion to reduce the pressure on your neck.

Be a Bug

Bugging out is a great alternative to Shoulderstand if none of the modifications above work for you. The shoulderstand can be substituted with the Bug Pose. Start on your back, with your legs bent and your soles on the ground. Keep your neck, spine, and torso firmly on the ground. Lift both of your feet in the air. Lift your arms, too, if it feels good. I encourage my students to use this moment as a fun part of their practice. Twirl your ankles. Wiggle your fingers. Bend your knees. Spread your legs out into a wide stride. You may eventually want to sit in stillness, allowing the power of inversion to renew and restore you. Stay in this position as long as it serves you.

Use the Breath

Use the breath as a guide to your practice, no matter what expression you choose. It will help you to determine where you need to make modifications. Not only is pain an indicator that you have pushed your limits, but it’s also a good indication. Losing your breath is a sign that you’re not ready or built for the expression of a pose.

Many teachers warn against shoulderstands due to the potential injury. As students and teachers, we must practice vivekyou’rediscern what is best for our body, mind, and spirit.

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