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Step-By-Step Pose Breakdown: Shoulder Stand

An Inversion with Total-Body Benefits

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Shoulder stand is a powerhouse of a pose. It's full of benefits and tends to be more accessible than other inversions. In addition to stimulating the thyroid gland, this pose also relieves stress and depression, improves digestion, opens the shoulders and neck, and strengthens your legs, butt, arms, and abs.

If you have neck issues, fold one or two thick blankets under your body so that your head rests just off the blankets on the floor, and your shoulders and arms are on the blankets.

As with everything in yoga, remember that if it doesn’t feel good, skip it. Don’t forget to breathe and have fun!

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Photo: Vera Boykewich

Prep: Seated Forward Bend

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Begin in a seated position with legs extended long and together and arms relaxed on either side. Take a big inhale. On the exhale, fall forward, pulling navel to spine and extending hands toward feet as much or as little as feels good on legs and lower back. Allow head to relax down toward legs. (If hamstrings are tight, soften knees.) Breathe here for as long as it feels good.

Photo: Vera Boykewich

Prep: Legs Up

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When you are ready to come out, one vertebra at a time, roll up and then onto back, keeping soft knees. Bend knees and place feet on the floor with arms on either side. Soften knees and press arms into the ground to reach feet up toward the ceiling. Breathe here for as long as is comfortable.

Photo: Vera Boykewich

Prep: Modified Plow

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When you feel comfortable, allow feet to fall back behind you an amount that feels good on your neck.

Photo: Vera Boykewich

Prep: Plow Pose

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Reach feet to the ground for plow pose. Clasp hands together on the ground and wiggle shoulders underneath you one at a time. Press firmly into arms, reach through heels, and breathe here for at least 3 deep breaths.

Photo: Vera Boykewich

Prep: Egg Pose

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From plow or modified plow, place hands on lower back for support and try to keep elbows about shoulder-width apart. Soften legs and allow knees to rest on forehead in an egg shape. Breath here for as long as is comfortable.

Photo: Vera Boykewich

Shoulder Stand

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When you feel steady, reach feet toward ceiling one at a time, lengthening legs when you feel comfortable. Breathe here for at least 3 deep breaths. To come down, slowly soften knees toward forehead, come back to plow, and slowly lower back to mat one vertebra at a time.

Photo: Vera Boykewich

Counter Stretch: Fish

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Fish is a great counterpart to shoulder stand and can be an effective way to relieve neck and back pain, improve circulation, and open your chest muscles.

Place hands and palms underneath butt and hips. Keep elbows as close together as possible and fingertips facing forward with forearms parallel to each other on the ground. Bend elbows and lean onto forearms, pressing them into the floor. Lift chest up toward the ceiling so that back is arched. Bring elbows toward each other until they're about shoulder-width apart. Allow head to relax down toward the ground until it touches the mat. Breathe here for at least 3 deep breaths. When ready, come out of this slowly and lie on your back for a few breaths to enjoy how great you feel.

Photo: Vera Boykewich