There are times when you may need a Shoulderstand alternative in order to avoid full weight-bearing onto the neck e.g due to a crick in the neck or general neck or shoulder issues. Fatigue may also signal a preference for a restorative or supported inversion on a particular day.
These first two options are not suited for women during their Menstrual cycle.
1. “Legs up the wall over a bolster”. This is a somewhat hybrid posture, between Setu Bandha and Viparita Karani. It has the advantage of being easy to get into and it helps give the back of the pelvis good support.
Place a bolster lengthways against the wall, bending the bolster to hook a little section of it up the wall. Place one or two half folded blankets, or a three fold blanket, over the flat part of the bolster. Place the pelvis onto that flat part of the bolster, legs up the wall at about 70 degrees, and the shoulders and head on the floor.
2. Viparita Karani – a very restorative and calming semi inversion that gives good opening to the chest and softens the diaphragm facilitating a smooth and steady breath.
Place two bolsters, or a bolster and two half folded blankets, one on top of the other, horizontally positioned near the wall, about a palm’s distance away.
Roll up into the pose, or go into it sideways with hips near the wall. Position yourself so that the backs of the legs are right up against the wall and the shoulders and back of the head are on the floor.
The next two variations are suitable for women during their menstrual cycle, and for when you might need or want a more chest opening and restorative option.
1. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana over bolsters and blankets.
Take two bolsters lengthways a little away from the wall ( or a bolster plus two half folded blankets) one on top of the other, with a little section of the top bolster or blankets hanging a little over the front edge of the bottom bolster. Lie back over the bolsters, feet into the wall at hip height and the pelvis, and lower half of the ribcage on the bolsters. The shoulders and the head are on the floor. This pose helps to release tension in the lower abdomen and to open the chest, bringing a boost in mood and energy whilst quietening the nerves.
2. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana over “T” shape bolsters.
Place the bolsters in a T shape, one horizontally against the wall and the other lengthways away from the first bolster. Lie back over the lengthways bolster, with the feet onto the second horizontal bolster, hip-width or wider apart. This is a particularly restful and simple version of Setu Bandha and is often used in the first days of the Menstrual cycle.
3. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, with feet in Baddha Konasana, supported over two horizontal bolsters, one in front of the other.
Lie back over the bolster, placing the legs in Baddha Konasana, and loop a belt around the feet and back of the pelvis. Lie back bringing the lower back ribs, kidney region, to the front of the bolster, and place the shoulders and back of the head onto the floor.
This version is very soothing to the nerves, and brings freedom to the lower pelvic region. It can be helpful for Menstrual headaches or tension.