Sarvangasana

Sarvangasana (inverted shoulder stand)

Sarvangasana is the second of the twelve basic poses of Hatha Yoga. It is an inverted pose and sometimes called the ‘Queen of Asanas’. In Sanskrit, sarva means whole and anga means parts of the body; as the name suggests, this asana is an excellent tonic for the whole body.

It is highly beneficial to include an inverted pose in one’s yoga practice. Inverted asanas improve the blood circulation to the brain and help remove stale blood from the lower limbs. They also benefit the digestive system and many other organs of the body.

Though sirshasana (the head stand) is probably better known, sarvangasana offers all the benefits, minus the possible harms of sirshasana.

Sarvangasana

Procedure:

  • Lie on your back on the mat with legs stretched out, palms near the body – this is the starting position.
  • Relax the body for a few moments.
  • Bend the knees and fold your legs, with the heels near the buttocks.
  • Inhale and raise your legs off the ground by using the contraction of the abdominal muscles. Do not jerk and slowly raise your legs, taking about ten seconds to get the legs perpendicular to the ground – at this stage, the buttocks should be on the ground.
  • Raise the buttocks and legs slowly and keep your legs together.
    • Lift the trunk, hips, and legs vertically. Support the back with the two hands, one on either side of the waist.
    • Rest the elbows firmly on the ground.
    • Make the body vertical to the ground; the body should be supported on your shoulders.
    • In the final posture, the chest should rest on the chin, exerting a gentle pressure on it (this is the jalandhara bandha).
    • Breathe normally in this final position – initially, it may be difficult to maintain it for more than a few seconds. With practice, it is quite beneficial to stay in this posture for two to three minutes.

From this position, you can either – a. go on to do halasana b. get back to the starting position.

Getting back to the starting position: Take extra care that you don’t jerk or fling your way back to the starting position.

  1. From the perpendicular state, bend the legs so that they are over and behind the head and parallel to the ground.
  2. Very slowly, release the position of the hands to let the body rest on the mat.
  3. Rotate the legs slowly so that they come to rest on the ground. Try not to use the hands while doing this; without hands, the abdominal muscles will be nice massaged.

Notes:

  • This asana calls for graceful movement of the body, while lifting the legs and while returning back to the floor. Please make sure that there are no jerks in your movement.
  • The head should remain firmly on the mat during the whole practice.
  • Try to ensure that the chest presses the chin – this will result in the jalandahara bandha, a highly beneficial practice. The main reason why some are unable to do so is because the trunk is not raised high enough. Use your hands to make your trunk perpendicular to the ground. Remember – the chest should press against the chin and not vice versa.
  • Do not force or strain to touch the chin. Those with stiff necks will find this difficult initially; but they will be able to do so with practice and patience.

Breathing: Retain breath inside or outside while raising and lowering the body. Breathe normally in the final position.

Awareness: On the smooth movement of the body while moving in or out of the final posture. In the final position, on the breath process, especially at the throat.

Precautions: People suffering from slipped discs, cerebral thrombosis and severe neck injuries are advised not to practice this asana. Those with excessive high blood pressure, weak hearts, glaucoma or other eye disorders should not practice it. Though sarvangasana has a wonderful impact on the thyroid, those suffering from an excessively enlarged thyroid should not practice this asana, till the swelling is reduced.

It should not be done during menstruation or advanced stages of pregnancy.

Stop the practice if you experience any of these:

  • Dizziness
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Palpitations of the heart
  • And if you feel very uneasy

Benefits:

This asana is a panacea and provides immense benefits to the practitioner.

It influences the thyroid gland directly and thereby improves the metabolism of the body. It brings about hormonal balance and helps to normalize the body weight by balancing the endocrinal system.

It calms the brain and helps relieve stress and minor cases of depression.

Sarvangasana improves supply of blood to the brain, thus rejuvenating it.

It improves flexibility of the spine and particularly tones those nerves that pass through the neck.

Because of the pressure of the chest on the chin, it allows for deep abdominal breathing.

Sarvangasana is very useful for asthmatics since it promotes abdominal breathing.

It is used to alleviate piles, menstrual problems, sexual problems as well as constipation.

It relieves pressure from the veins of the lower body (varicose veins).

Those with mild cases of high blood pressure will benefit from it greatly, though people suffering from excessively high blood pressure are advised not to practice this asana.

Since the whole neck and face regions are flooded  with blood during this asana, it improves facial complexion and reduces wrinkles.

Above all, it is a very calming asana and brings about tranquility of the mind. It is an excellent asana to do before meditation.

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Published in: on April 25, 2010 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cakrāsana

Cakrāsana – चक्रासन

Cakrāsana

Variation 1 – for beginners

Procedure

  1. Lie on the back on the mat, with your knees bent and drawn, with your heels close to the buttocks.
  2. The legs should apart; roughly the width of the shoulders.
  3. Bend your arms so that the right palm is under the right shoulder, the left palm under the left shoulder and the elbows pointing up; the fingers should point towards your legs – this is the starting position.
  4. Take a deep breath and arch your back, with the crown of the head supporting the weight of the upper body.
  5. Then straighten your arms as well as your knees – this will lift the torso up in the air. The bulk of the weight will be on the thighs and on your triceps, the back muscles of your upper arms. You may adjust your hand position to ensure a steady position.
  6. Try to enhance the arch of the spine by gently pushing your abdomen up in the air. The head should be between your arms, looking backward as far as possible.
  7. When you are set in the final position, lift your heels and let the toes support body weight for a few seconds; then lower you’re your heels to the floor.
  8. Retain breath in this final pose for as long as comfortable – you may even breathe normally in this posture.
  9. Exhale slowly and gently lower your arms and legs, till you come back to the mat safely. Do not jerk while going up or while coming down.

10.  Allow your breath to get back to normal; experience the circulation of blood and energy that this asana gives.

This is one round.

Note

  1. This is a fairly advanced asana and requires a rather flexible spine. As mentioned earlier, do not make jerky movements while getting in to the final posture. It is easy to hurt oneself while doing so. It is advised to practice the easier backward bending asanas and perfect those before attempting this asana.
  2. As can been seen, this asana requires a fair amount of traction between the palms and the mat/floor so as not to slip. Ensure that the mat is firm and does not slip. If you are doing it on the floor, if you moisten the palms with water, sweat, spit a bit, you may find that the palms are less likely to slip.
  3. As you get more comfortable with this posture, you can slowly try to bring your palms towards the legs a little, while in the final posture. Remember, that any movement should be slow, without jerks and in inches – no big movements please.

Variation 2 – for advanced practitioners

  1. This asana can be done from an initial standing up posture as well. Stand with your legs about a couple of feet apart.
  2. Take a deep breath and bend your knees, the hips and finally the spine and slide your palms along your buttocks down to the back of the thighs.
  3. Keep bending your spine and your head – at a certain point, lift your hands away from the thighs and gently drop them to the floor, with palms facing towards the legs.
  4. The rest of the process is the same as Variation 1.

Breath: Inhale in the starting position. Retain breath while getting into the final position. Retain breath in final pose or breathe normally; exhale while lowering the torso to the ground.

Awareness: On the chest, the abdomen and on the arching of the spine.

Rounds: Practice up to three rounds.

Precautions – This is a fairly strenuous asana. Do not practice this asana during illness, pregnancy or if you are suffering from cardiac disease, detached retina, hernia or weak wrists.

Benefits:

Chakrasana energizes the body and stimulates the nervous, endocrine, respiratory and circulatory systems. It stretches the lungs and chest, while strengthening the muscles of the buttocks, legs, calves, wrists, arms, and spine. It impacts the digestive system strongly and deeply massages the internal organs.

It is also an inverted asana and thus the final pose flushes the brain with a fresh supply of oxygenated blood. This asana is very useful in realigning any spinal discs and vertebrae that may be slightly displaced.

In short, this is a wonderful asana that has a beneficial impact on the whole body.

Published in: on April 22, 2010 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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