April’s Yoga Pose of the Month: Salamba Sarvangasana with a chair – Chair Shoulderstand by Katja Huiras

Katja HuirasNamaste everyone!  I’m so ready for warm weather and some sunshine on my skin to fill up my energy reserves. Since spring this year requires us to be patient for higher temperatures, how about practicing a yoga pose that allows your body to take a little spring break?  Salamba Sarvangasana with a chair is one of my favorite yoga poses. This is a wonderful restorative pose that allows you to be inverted with very little effort – so it is really easy to hold the pose for a longer while, letting your body rest, relax and renew itself.

The only tricky aspect for the Chair Shoulderstand is the journey getting into the pose.

For this month I would like to show you a detailed way on how to get into and out of this pose.

Salamba SarvangasanaYoga props you will need:

  • a sturdy chair (I am using a “yoga chair” which is a yoga prop quite often used in Iyengar yoga classes)
  • 2-4 blankets
  • yoga mat


Salamba Sarvangasana 2The set-up:

  • Fold your yoga mat into fourths and place it on the chair seat. Allow the mat to drape over the front edge of the seat
  • Fold a blanket in half the short way and place it on the chair seat as well. The smooth edge will be facing the front of the seat.  If you have a tall torso, you will need to place a second folded blanket on top.
  • Fold the remaining two blankets in half lengthwise. Stack these neatly on top of each other with their smooth edges lining up  (if you have a short torso you might have to stack up with a third blanket).
  • Place this blanket set-up in front of the chair and have the smooth edges facing away from the chair legs.

In the picture I am using one blanket on the chair seat and 3 blankets on the floor

The journey into the pose:Salamba Sarvangasana 3

(If you have never practiced this before using a chair, have someone spot you when getting into and out of the pose.  Better yet, ask an Iyengar Yoga teacher to teach you this pose and use my instructions as a reminder for a home practice)

  1. Sit backwards on the chair with your legs hanging over the backrest. With your hands hold the sides of the chair seat to support yourself and to give yourself leverage to sit tall with your chest lifted.  Make sure your buttocks are close to the back of the seat.
  1. Keep your legs hanging over the backrest (this and the buttocks toward the back of the seat will prevent the chair from falling over as you proceed), hold onto the sides of the chair rest and lean back to lower your torso towards the floor.Salamba Sarvangasana 4-5
  1. Salamba Sarvangasana 5Hold onto the front chair legs and let your head rest on the floor. Position your shoulders onto the blankets on the floor. Place one foot onto the back rest and scootch yourself back so that the back of your pelvis bones touch the front of the chair seat (resting on the blanket) and you can align the tops of the shoulders with the smooth edge of the floor blanket set-up.  (your neck should not be on the blankets)
  1. Now thread your arms inside the chair legs and hold onto the back chair legs. If you have tight shoulders this might be quite difficult to do and instead you can hold onto the back legs from the outside.Salamba Sarvangasana 7-8

Roll your shoulders under so that the outer shoulders come onto the blankets.  (Notice how this opens the chest)

  1. You can now stretch your legs straight up to the ceiling or rest them on the back rest.

Salamba Sarvangasana 9-10

  1. Stay in the pose for up to 5 minutes and even longer if you feel comfortable. Take into consideration the following information which I found on Lillah Schwartz’s website, com :

It takes a blood cell about three minutes to travel through every vessel in your body.  This implies that being inverted for three minutes or more allows the body to flush, purify and restore all glandular and organ functions.

Some alignment points when in the pose:

  1. Keep pressing the backs of arms down into the blankets and lift your chest
  2. Bring the back body to the front body
  3. Extend the legs, especially reach through your inner ankle, inner heel and big toe mound

How to get out of the pose:

Salamba Sarvangasana 11-12

  1. Bend your knees and place your feet onto the back rest first. Then release your hands and hold onto the front chair legs.
  2. Now bring your feet onto the chair seat and slide yourself back until you can rest your pelvis on the blanket set-up on the floor. Allow your calves to rest on the seat and let your arms release to your sides. Stay here for a few breaths.
  3. Then roll over to the right side and come up to a seated position.

Helpful Sources:

  1. Yoga in Action: Preliminary Course by Geeta Iyengar, published by YOG, Mumbai, India, 2000
  1. Using the chair for Shoulderstand was inspired by the Iyengar classes I attended in the past

Katja Huiras is a 500 hr certified Yoga teacher who teaches alignment based yoga classes in the Lehigh Valley.  In 2009 she was introduced to Iyengar Yoga and was intensely inspired by its method. Since then she regularly studies and practices with certified Iyengar Yoga teachers.

Missed last month’s column? Read it Now:



January’s Yoga Pose of the Month: SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA – Bridge Pose By Katja Huiras

December’s Yoga Pose of the Month: SALAMBA  SIRSASANA—Supported Headstand

November’s Yoga Pose of the Month: Ustrasana – Camel Pose

October Yoga Pose of the Month: UTTHITA TRIKONASANA – Extended Triangle Pose

September Yoga Pose of the Month: SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA—Lying Down Bound Angle Pose

August Yoga Pose-of-the-Month: Marichysana 3 – a Seated Twist Dedicated to the Sage Marichi

July’s Yoga Pose of the Month: ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA – Downward Facing Dog Pose

June’s Yoga Pose of the Month: VIRABHADRASANA 2 – Warrior 2 Pose