Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth. She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.
Half shoulder stand is a great pose but how do you know if it’s safe for you to practice it? When it gets towards the end of the term I feel comfortably familiar with any new students. At this point we usually experiment a little with half shoulder stand (ardha sarvangasana) and some other modified variations.
I’ve purposely excluded a picture of half shoulder stand and instead have chosen shoulder bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana) and legs up the wall pose (viparita karani). The reason is I’m always so conscious of us seeing a yoga pose and thinking “oh, I might quickly see if I can do that one”. Often, in our head, we visualise ourselves in the pose or have done it before so think its ok. The fact is, it can be dangerous and the potential for injury is high with inverted postures. This is particularly so when we aren’t properly warmed up.
Practicing Half Shoulder Stand
The milder variations I have included in the pictures are great and much safer for most people. I should also note that I’m a yoga therapist and therefore often teaching students who are carrying old injuries so my viewpoint may be a little different to yours! When we practice half shoulder stand in class, it’s always done with a full warming up sequence and then a warming down afterwards. It’s so important to follow logical sequencing when practicing poses like this. There also many reasons why you shouldn’t attempt the half shoulder stand. A good yoga teacher will never mind if you decline to practice a particular pose. We are usually proud of you for listening to your own body (after all, we’re always telling you this right?!)
Safety in Half Shoulder Stand
My students know that I never teach headstand or full shoulder stand in a group class. Even one on one, I can count on one hand the amount of students I’ve taught these poses too. Over the years, I’ve loved practicing them myself yet my body still says “no” sometimes. If you tick any of these boxes below then I feel you just shouldn’t practice the half shoulder stand. It isn’t worth the risk and other poses can give similar benefits in a safer way.
- Neck injury (old or current)
- Neck or shoulder pain
- Eye injury, recent eye surgery or any other eye condition (check with your teacher)
- Feeling dizzy or unwell
- Menstruating heavily
- Don’t feel like it
- Don’t feel safe, strong or stable enough….
- Any other reason you just don’t want to!
I will continue to teach half shoulder stand like this as it’s nice to provide the opportunity for those students who are able to do it. Some students love it (including me!) and would feel duped out of giving it a go if I never taught it. However, I’ll always provide other options for those who are unable for any of the above reasons.
Happy inverting : )