How to do sarvangāsana (pan-body pose)

Post By: Published on: December 15, 2016 Reading time: 5 minutes

What is sarvangāsana (pan-body pose)?

In sarvangāsana, the practitioner balances the entire body on the shoulders, holding the head in a neck-lock with the chest. This sarvangāsana is an advanced āsana and must be learned under the supervision of a qualified expert.

How does one practice sarvangāsana? (should be learned under supervision)

  • Sthithi (starting) position: On a soft mat, lie flat on the back.
  • Fold thighs over torso so that knees touch forehead.
  • Keeping elbows firmly planted on the ground, support back under hip with hands.
  • Straighten legs vertically upwards. Keep legs straight.
  • Use hands to push chest against the chin to form a lock. For increased leverage and support, this may require that hands be brought further down on the back.
  • As the back of the neck relaxes, it will settle on the ground. Keep legs and torso straight.
  • Breathe calmly and try to be serene. Focus on blood flow to the neck region.
  • Start by holding this position for 3 minutes and gradually increase duration up to 15 minutes. One can also split the āsana into 2 periods of 3 to 10 minutes each with a break for 2 minutes.
  • The dṛṣṭi (gaze) recommended is pādayorāgre (toe of the foot gaze).

What are the benefits of practicing sarvangāsana?

  • Seetharma Iyer performing sarvangāsana in 1960’s

    This āsana bathes thyroid and para-thyroid, endocrine or ductless glands situated at the base of the neck on both sides of the windpipe with fresh oxygen rich blood. This is important because, thyroid controls the speed of chemical reactions in the body, influencing aspects such as rate of growth and development of sexual characteristics in adolescents. Also, a defective thyroid could lead to goitre and cretinism in children. Parathyroid also controls use of calcium and phosphorus in the body. Therefore, this āsana is very useful for rejuvenating all these related areas.

  • Owing to the inverted pose, blood supply aided by gravity rushes down. The neck lock ensures that the blood circulates around the organs in the region, primarily the thyroid, parathyroid and larynx.
  • The inverted pose also increases blood supply to the brain stem which regulates functions such as heart rate, breathing, sleep, eating and functioning of cranial nerves. Therefore, this āsana can support all treatments relating to the brain stem.
  • This āsana is excellent for people with lung ailments such as asthma or emphysema and with nasal allergies as it increases resistance to allergies and blood supply to the lungs and heart.
  • The inverted pose pushes intestines against diaphragm and sets up peristalsis. As a result, this helps to cure constipation.
  • This āsana helps balance all metabolic activity and increases resistance to disease.
  • The parathyroid is critical in controlling calcium. Hence, sarvangāsana is important for regulating health of the parathyroid and kidneys which regulate the electrolyte balance.

What are the possible sarvangāsana contraindications?

  • Yogacharya Sundaram demonstrating the perfect Sarvangasana (1920s)

    If you have any form of back ache, do not attempt this āsana without adequate supervision and support.

  • People with cardiac problems, lower back problems and circulatory disorders should not attempt the final position.
  • This āsana should not to be done by people having neck ailments like cervical spondylitis. Those with high blood pressure should start this exercise only after getting proficiency in other āsana and additionally, increase intensity of practice gradually, under guidance of a doctor.
  • Do not perform this āsana if you have cervical spondylosis, hernia or arthritis.
  • People with kidney ailments, hernia etc should avoid this āsana.
  • This āsana should not be practiced during late stages of pregnancy.

Some noteworthy points on sarvangāsana.

Internal Links: Dharma (conditioning), Stress and Situational Awareness, Prana, Asana sequence, Asana schedule, Asana Focus or gazing, PranayamaHatha Yoga Pradeepika

External Links: Prana, Chakra, Pancha Tattva, Pancha Prana, Pancha Kosha, Nadi,

  • Smt. Sarada demonstrating sarvāsana in a saree (1950s)

    Beginners should learn this āsana under supervision. The reason is that the entire body is upended to balance on the shoulder and back of the head. Therefore, any loss in balance could cause grievous damage to the neck, which should be avoided.

  • When learning, an experienced practitioner should stand behind the novice, supporting the practitioners back and holding the legs. This support should be gradually withdrawn as the practitioner gains strength and confidence.
  • Many people worry about a gap in the neck on the ground during neck lock. However, one should not worry. The natural arch of the cervical portion of the neck is supported by a multitude of minor muscles. Also, these muscles will be stiff initially and will relax with practice. Therefore, over time, the neck will flex to its natural position. Placing arch supports below the neck might hamper this process.
  • This āsana MUST be followed by matyasana (turtle pose) to reverse the neck lock with a counter pose.

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