How Do I Get Up Into Shoulder Stand?


April 5, 2022     technique | Your Questions

Transcript of: How do I get up into shoulder stand?

Alright everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. We’ve got a good one on shoulder stand. Although, I’m not sure how helpful I’m going to be. The question comes from Charlene and it’s about how to get up into shoulder stand.

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The Question:

Hello David,
My question is in regards to shoulder stand. All the classes and videos I’ve seen focus on the upper body muscles and neck safety, which is so important. But I can’t find anything about what to do if you can’t roll up into shoulder stand. All the videos start by saying bring your knees in without explanation of this part. I can “rock and roll” to get into place but I can’t gently bring my knees in and simply roll back. I’ve been doing yoga for years and some Pilates as well but try as I might, I can’t go past a certain place to get my legs up. It just stops. Maybe I still need more abs? I do have greater than fifty percent disc degeneration between L4 and L5. Could that have anything to do with it? Any advice would be much appreciated.

The Answer:

Interesting question Charlene. I’ll say from the beginning that everything would be easier if I could kind of see and watch where things are getting stuck. If you choose to make a little video, you could always send me a link to where it is. I could watch it and I could come back and do a follow-up on this. I’m just putting it out there.

You know, I think one thing is that a little bit of rock and roll is okay. I can understand the part of maybe being frustrated because you’ve been practicing for years. But I think a lot of people use at least a little bit of momentum at some point. But let’s get a little bit more specific. I’ll make some educated guesses, or guesses that I’d like to believe are educated guesses, about what might be going on for you.

Let’s address the thing that you mentioned first, which is your greater than fifty percent disc degeneration between L4 and L5. I would say, just to clarify, that everyone has some disc degeneration going on as they age, me included I would assume. I don’t have pictures, so I don’t know. You say greater than fifty percent. That’s important relative to your age. Like, have you degenerated more than average for your age? But even so, I would expect that in order for that to be blocking you from getting up into shoulder stand, there would probably need to be a little bit of arthritis that goes along with it, which wouldn’t be uncommon. So, there’s a stiffness or a tightness, or a feeling of blocking. So, I would hold that as a possibility.

Don’t assume it’s a strength thing

The other thing is because you asked about your abs and ab strength, you know we live in a very ab-centric society. By that I mean we’re heavily focused on the abdominals solving any number of problems. The other small sort of trap that you fell into is kind of thinking that more strength is what’s necessary. If you’ve done yoga for a lot of years and you’ve done Pilates as well, I’d guess you’re pretty strong already. I doubt that it’s an ab-strength thing.

Finding that source of tension

Remember, when we lie down flat on our back, as in savasana, to get up into shoulder stand, keep in mind that the strength in the front body is being resisted, so to speak, by the tension on the opposite side. I’m going to assume that you have enough strength, just based on what you wrote. I could be wrong.

Explore the back line

I would focus more on the opposite side and the entire chain. Are your hamstrings open, free, and flexible? Is your pelvis open and flexible, meaning, can it rotate when you want it to? Third, which brings us back to your low back and L4-L5, you know, can your lumbar spine flex when you need or want it to? The other big restrictor that I find is the inability to move in what I’ll say is mid-thoracic, mid to lower thoracic, back up into cervical. If those vertebrae — and this could be genetic, this could be structural, this could be musculature as well — if those vertebrae don’t flex well, that’s also going to make it more difficult to go up.

Okay? So, what I would say to you is, look at that back line of the body and try to get a sense of where on that back line of your body things are the tightest. Then see if the point where you’re getting stuck when you try to roll up into shoulder stand is related to getting some movement in that part. That’s the best advice I can give you. And I’d say a small amount of momentum is totally fine to get the benefits of the posture. Okay? Alright, I hope that helped. Anybody else, if you’ve got a question, you know what to do, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion. Submit your question and I’ll get to it on video.

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