I used to feel like my thick thighs and large breasts were obstacles in my yoga practice. One of the most confronting postures was Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana). I often felt like I was being suffocated by my ample bust. So not only would I dread it, but sometimes I'd skip it.
Luckily, I eventually found ways enjoy Shoulder Stand by modifying it or using an alternative. I didn't want to miss out on the benefits of going upside-down just because I'm well-endowed. I believe that bosomy women still deserve the benefits of inversions, so here are some ways to prepare, modify and substitute:
1. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) stretches the chest, neck and spine while stimulating abdominal organs, lungs and thyroid. Best of all, it can calm the brain and help alleviate stress.
When in Bridge Pose, work to focus on gently rotating your outer upper arms underneath you to feel the pressure on your shoulders and triceps. Lengthen the tailbone towards your shins and keep your legs active.
2. Supported Bridge with a block is great if bridge pose is too much to hold. Place a block or bolster under your sacrum to rest the pelvis while working your triceps underneath you. Take this as an indication that you might not be ready for shoulder stand and practice some of the alternatives below.
When it's time to come into Shoulder Stand, using blankets under your shoulders can help you create space for your neck. Stack two blankets with the folded edge toward the back of your mat. When you lay down to prepare for your inversion, check to see that the top of your shoulders is an inch or two away from the edge of the blanket.
If you realized that you prefer bridge pose with a block, you can also substitute Shoulder Stand with a few alternatives.
1. Place a block under hips while in bridge pose and lift your legs up while your pelvis is being supported by the block. Granted, the more firm your block is, the better. Work to keep the legs together, lengthening along the back of the leg while pointing through the toes.
2. If balancing on the block feels to precarious, using your legs in a strap (Supta Padagustasana) is a great alternative.
3. Lastly, Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani) is a restorative option what still offers great benefits. As the name implies, lay flat on the floor and put your legs up a wall or on a chair to increase circulation.
In the end, just because one pose doesn't work it doesn't mean you can't get the same benefits from another pose. Honestly, yoga works for every body type, so be willing to try different modifications and variations to find what works for you.
You can see some tips here.
Photo Credit: Fluid Frame Photography