Friday, December 13, 2013

Fitness Friday - Supported Shoulderstand

Today is another Fitness Friday that will be focusing on yoga poses, I feel that many of my Fitness Friday posts have been all about yoga and I know that many more will be about yoga.  One of the most exciting parts of the semester end was signing up for a few more yoga classes over the next few weeks and knowing that I will have some time to start up a home practice.  One of my goals over this vacation is to create a special night flow that I can use before going to bed at night.  I will post that flow once I have come with the pose sequence.

Today's yoga pose is the first inversion that I ever tried, Supported Shoulderstand is the pose that starts most students' experience with inversions.  I still struggle with an unsupported version of this pose, so we will look at the supported modification of the pose.  This pose can easily become unsupported by pulling the blankets away and using no support on the shoulders. 

Yoga Journal provides details on the pose and the steps to follow in order to safely start working up into Shoulderstand. 

- Fold two or more firm blankets into rectangles measuring about 1 foot by 2 feet, and stack them on top of each other.  You can place a sticky mat over the blankets to help the upper arms stay in place while in the pose.  Then lie on the blankets with your shoulders supported (and parallel to one of the longer edges) and your head on the floor.  Lay your arms on the floor alongside your torso, and bend your knees and set your feet against the floor with the heels close to the sitting bones.  Exhale, press your arms against the floor, and push your feet away from the floor, drawing your thighs into the front torso.

- Continue to lift by curling the pelvis and then back the torso away from the floor, so that your knees come toward your face.  Stretch your arms out parallel to the edge of the blanket and turn them outward so the fingers press against the floor (and the thumbs point behind you).  Bend your elbows and draw them toward each other.  Lay the backs of your upper arms on the blanket and spread your palms against the back of your torso.  Raise your pelvis over your shoulders, so that the torso is relatively perpendicular to the floor.  Walk your hands up your back (toward the floor) without letting your elbows slide too much wider than shoulder width.

- Inhale and lift your bent knees toward the ceiling, bringing your thighs in line with your torso and hanging the heels down by your buttocks.  Press your tailbone toward your pubis and turn the upper thighs inward slightly.  Finally inhale and straighten the knees, pressing the heels up toward the ceiling.  When the backs of the legs are fully lengthened, lift the balls of the big toes so the inner legs are slightly longer than the outer. 

- Soften the throat and tongue.  Firm the shoulder blades against the back, and move the sternum toward the chin.  Your forehead should be relatively parallel to the floor, your chin perpendicular.  Press the backs of your upper arms and tops of your shoulders actively into the blanket support, and try to lift the upper spine away from the floor.  Gaze softly at your chin.

- As a beginning practitioner, stay in the pose for about 30 seconds.  Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds to your stay everyday or until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes.  Then continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in this pose.  Again gradually and 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes.  To come down, exhale, bend your knees into your torso again, and roll your back torso slowly and carefully onto the floor, keeping the back of your head on the floor.

Supported Shoulderstand is usually the first inversion that a yoga teacher will start to work their students into.  I will say that I fell out of this pose many times before my teacher decided that I was going to learn this pose in a different way.  The only way that I could learn how to straighten up correctly was to do this pose with my feet against a wall.  Once I mastered being able to hold that for 3 minutes, I then worked on doing this pose with the blanket supports and holding it for a minute.  I have worked up to holding the pose for three minutes and I am still working on holding it for longer.

I have yet to try this pose in the unsupported fashion and I will be working up to this in the next few weeks.  I plan to use this winter break to practice yoga as much as possible...while pushing myself at the gym.  I have four weeks until class starts again...time to use it wisely!

photo courtesy of

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