7 Shoulderstand Modifications + Free Yoga Lesson Plan With Shoulderstand As The Peak Pose + Free Class Handout


Greetings, my lovely Yogis, Yoginis, and Yoga teachers. I’m George Watts, a BWY yoga teacher and creator of the online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner.

In this post, I’ll be exploring the world of “shoulderstand modifications” (Sarvangasana) to help your students safely and effectively practice this classic inversion. I’ve also created a doodle of the 7 Shoulderstand Modifications which you can give to your students as a handout. But I didn’t stop there. I’ve also created a yoga lesson plan with shoulderstand as the peak pose.

But first, let’s first chat a bit about this wondrous pose. 

Shoulderstand pose is called Sarvangasana in Sanskrit which is pronounced as: 


Here’s a breakdown of the pronunciation:

  • “sahr” rhymes with “car”
  • “vahn” rhymes with “on”
  • “GAHS” is pronounced with a hard ‘g’ sound, like in “gas”
  • “uh” is a short, unstressed sound, similar to the ‘a’ in “sofa”
  • “nuh” rhymes with “huh”

Say each syllable slowly and then combine them to pronounce “Sarvangasana”.

I felt compelled to write this post because it’s a powerful and transformative pose that offers loads of nifty benefits when performed correctly. It is, however, one of the most challenging yoga poses, and potentially risky for new, inexperienced students due to the pressure it places on the neck, shoulders, and spine. So, I recommend that you only teach Sarvangasana to intermediate and advanced students.

As yoga teachers, we know all about providing modifications, but it’s never more important to provide them with challenging poses that could cause serious harm to students, like Sarvangasana.

To that end, I have compiled a list of seven “Shoulderstand Modifications” that you can add to your classes. These modifications cater to a range of abilities and will empower your students to experience the benefits of this pose without compromising their safety.

Up next, is a free yoga class handout for you.

Free Yoga Class Handout With 7 Modifications For Shoulderstand Pose 

Here is a free yoga class handout with 7 modifications for Shoulderstand pose that you can download, print and give to your students.

Shoulderstand Modifications Yoga Class Handout

Shoulderstand Modifications: Free Yoga Class Handout

Hope you liked my yoga doodle art 🙂

Up next, now that you have an eye-catching shoulderstand pose handout, you’ll need a yoga lesson plan with Shoulderstand as the peak pose.

Free Yoga Lesson Plan With Shoulderstand As The Peak Pose

Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand pose) is the peak pose of this yoga lesson plan. Peak pose-themed lesson plans are a favourite for most yoga teachers.

You learned how to create a peak pose-themed lesson plan during your yoga teacher training, but just in case you have the desire to learn more, here’s an article I wrote with my formula on how to sequence around a peak pose.

Class Title: Inversions and Inner Balance: Exploring Stability and Control through Shoulderstand

Overview: Guide students through a carefully sequenced series of poses that build up to the peak pose, Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), while providing modifications for all levels.


  1. To provide a yoga class for intermediate to advanced students that gradually leads to the peak pose, Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana).
  2. To enhance students’ awareness of proper alignment, body awareness, and breath control throughout the practice.
  3. To encourage students to listen to their bodies and make use of props and modifications as needed, fostering a safe and supportive environment.


  1. Students will demonstrate increased body awareness by engaging in a balanced and focused practice, practising a variety of poses to prepare the body for the peak pose, Shoulderstand.
  2. Students will develop a deeper awareness of the alignment principles and techniques necessary to perform Shoulderstand pose safely and effectively.
  3. Students will gain confidence in their ability to progress in their practice by using props and modifications tailored to their individual needs and abilities.

Duration: 90 minutes

Level: Intermediate and Advanced

Props: Yoga mat, blankets, bolsters, and blocks (optional)

Lesson Plan:

  1. Centering and Grounding (5 minutes)
  2. Warm-Up (10 minutes)
  3. Standing Poses (10 minutes)
  4. Balancing Pose (5 minutes)
  5. Seated & Floor: Hip Openers (5 minutes)
  6. Seated & Floor: Backbends (5 minutes)
  7. Seated & Floor: Preparation for Shoulderstand (5 minutes)
  8. Peak Pose – Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana) (35 minutes): Guide students through 3 levels of modifications: 
  9. Counterpose (2 minutes)
  10. Cool Down and Twists (5 minutes)
  11. Savasana (5 minutes)
    • Corpse Pose (Savasana) with a bolster under the knees for lower back support
  12. Closing Meditation (3 minutes)
    • Seated meditation, focusing on gratitude for a strong, supple spine.

Important Note: Encourage students to listen to their bodies and make use of the props and modifications provided. Remind them that the goal is not to achieve a perfect Shoulderstand, but rather to explore their personal journey towards the pose.

In case you want to add different inversions to your yoga lesson plan, click here to see the 200+ inversion poses in my free Yoga Pose Directory.

If you want to add my famous blue stick figures to this plan, take a quick peek at my online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner. All the poses in the lesson plan above are available within the Planner (along with 3000+ other poses).

Up next, is some more in-depth info about the modifications.

12 Modifications For Shoulderstand Pose From Beginner To Advanced

Here are several modifications ranging from basic to advanced.

Basic Modifications

Legs Up Wall Pose
Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani) with hips supported on a folded blanket or bolster.

Supine Legs Up
Supine With Legs Up On A Block (Urdhva Prasarita Padasana).

Supported Shoulderstand On A Block
Supported Shoulderstand On A Block

Intermediate Modifications

Shoulderstand Against A Wall I
Shoulderstand Pose Against A Wall I

Shoulderstand Against A Wall II
Shoulderstand Pose Against A Wall II

Supported Shoulderstand I
Supported Shoulderstand using a chair as a prop

Supported Shoulderstand II
Supported Shoulderstand using a wall as a prop

Half Shoulderstand
Half Shoulderstand Pose (Ardha Sarvangasana) with hips on hands.

Advanced Modifications

Full Shoulderstand
Full Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana).

Bound Hands Headstand B
Bound Hands Headstand B (Baddha Hasta Sirsasana B).

Unsupported Shoulderstand
Unsupported Shoulderstand (Niralamba Sarvangasana). This is for very advanced students only!

Shoulderstand With A Partner
Shoulderstand With A Partner

These are just a few modifications. Any inversion pose could be used as a modification. Click here to see the 200+ inversion poses in my free Yoga Pose Directory.

Up next, ten themes you can use in your class.

10 Possible Yoga Lesson Plan Themes With Shoulderstand As The Peak Pose

Below are ten themes you can use in your class when you have Shoulderstand as your peak pose:

  1. Inversions and Inner Balance: Exploring Stability and Control through Shoulderstand
  2. The Art of Alignment: Perfecting Your Shoulderstand Technique
  3. Journey to Lightness: Cultivating Ease and Grace in Shoulderstand
  4. Unlocking the Benefits of Shoulderstand: A Holistic Approach to Inversions
  5. Nurturing the Neck: Safe and Mindful Practice in Shoulderstand
  6. Flowing into Inversions: A Shoulderstand-Focused Vinyasa Sequence
  7. Foundations of Shoulderstand: Building Strength and Flexibility for Inversions
  8. Confidence in Inversions: Overcoming Fears and Embracing the Joy of Shoulderstand
  9. Gentle Inversions: A Restorative Approach to Shoulderstand Practice
  10. The Power of Props: Supporting Your Shoulderstand with Proper Modifications

20 Teaching Tips For Shoulderstand Pose

  1. Proper Alignment: Harp on and on and on about the importance of proper alignment to ensure a safe and effective practice. Their necks depend on you making sure they don’t go gung ho into this pose.
  2. Prop Usage: Encourage the use of props, such as blankets, bolsters, or blocks, for supporting the neck and shoulders (even if they don’t have any neck or shoulder problems).
  3. Warm-Up: Explain the absolute importance of warming up the body before attempting Shoulderstand, focusing on the shoulders, chest, and neck.
  4. Prep Poses: Guide students through poses like Bridge Pose, Plough Pose, and Legs Up the Wall Pose to help them become aware of the correct alignment for Shoulderstand.
  5. Breath Control: Teach students to use their breath for stability and ease during the pose.
  6. Step-by-Step Instructions: Offer detailed instructions for entering and exiting the pose mindfully.
  7. Wall Support: Demonstrate using a wall as support (Shoulderstand Against A Wall I Pose and Shoulderstand Against A Wall II Pose).
  8. Gaze Direction: Encourage students to keep their gaze up and avoid turning their heads to either side.
  9. Weight Distribution: Remind students to press firmly through their upper arms and elbows to protect their necks.
  10. Hip Support: Ask students to place a folded blanket or bolster under the hips if they have difficulty lifting their hips high enough.
  11. Modifications and Variations: Include modifications such as Half Shoulderstand Pose and Legs Up the Wall Pose.
  12. Core Engagement: Teach students to engage their core muscles for stability and control in the pose.
  13. Patience and Self-Compassion: Encourage patience and self-compassion, as Shoulderstand will almost certainly feel very weird for most students.
  14. Safe Exit: Provide guidance on safely exiting the pose, ensuring students roll out without straining their necks.
  15. Counterpose Practice: Emphasize the importance of a counterpose, such as Fish Pose, to release tension in the neck and upper back.
  16. Personal Journey Focus: Remind students that the goal is to explore their personal journey towards Shoulderstand, and throw perfection in the bin where it belongs.
  17. Open Communication: Encourage students to communicate any discomfort or concerns, allowing you to give an adjustment or modification.
  18. Clear Language: Use clear and concise language, avoiding jargon or complex terms that may make you look like a wise Guru, but will almost certainly confuse your students.
  19. Positive Reinforcement: Provide encouragement and support to help students build confidence.
  20. Safe Environment: Create a safe and supportive environment for students to explore the pose at their own pace and within their comfort level.

Next up, are questions your students might ask about the benefits of the pose, and possible answers you can give them.

How to Explain the Benefits of Shoulderstand Pose to Your Students 

Below are some fun ways to help students visualise the many benefits of Shoulderstand Pose.

“Hey Yogis, let me tell you about the fantastic benefits of Shoulderstand, or as I like to call it, the “Upside-down Super Duper Pose!”

It’s like your personal circulation booster, sending blood flow to your noggin and ticker. And hey, who doesn’t love a good detox?

Shoulderstand’s got your back (because it will build you a nice strong back). 

Need a chill pill? This pose is like a gentle hug to your nerves, easing stress and anxiety.

Hormones acting up? No worries, Shoulderstand is here to balance those jiggling hormones

You’ll get bendy in the neck, shoulders, and upper back, and build strength in your core and legs. 

Could your digestion use a pick-me-up? Say hello to this inversion’s belly-rubbing magic.

Sleepless nights? More like sweet dreams with Shoulderstand’s calming effects.

Need a brain boost? Shoulderstand is like a shot of espresso for your mind, sharpening focus and mental clarity.

So come on, get upside down with awareness and correct form, and enjoy the ride!” 


George’s Conclusion

George's Conclusion

Well, there you have it, my lovely fellow yoga teacher.

We’ve explored the wild and wonderful world of Shoulderstand, where circulation soars, flexibility flourishes, and stress takes a backseat.

Your students will love flipping their perspectives in this gravity-defying pose. And who knows? Maybe one day, you’ll form an elite squad of Shoulderstand superheroes, saving the world one inversion at a time. Until then, happy teaching, and may the yoga force be with you!

Oh yes, I almost forgot, Shoulderstand pose obviously is an ideal peak pose for a peak pose-themed yoga lesson plan. But if you’re hungry for more, click here for 10 beginner yoga lesson plans with peak poses.

And click here for an article I wrote called: 1001 Yoga Class Planning Tips & Handouts For Yoga Teachers.

Hey, while you’re here, you might as well get your hands on 37 of my free Yoga lesson plans.

Get Your Yogic Hands On 37 Of My Free Yoga Lesson Plans

Below are 37 free downloadable yoga lesson plans that I’ve created for my own yoga classes using the Online Yoga Genie Lesson Planner. Feel free to use them for your own yoga classes, or as inspiration to come up with your own yoga class themes.

Become A Peaceful Warrior Yoga Lesson Plan

Caterpillar To Butterfly Yoga Lesson Plan

How Heavy Is This Glass Of Water Yoga Lesson Plan

Surrender To Slowness Yoga Lesson Plan

You Don’t Need Permission To Shine: Just Show Up, Shine & Be Yourself

Abiciously Delicious Core Yoga Lesson Plan

Chair Yoga Lesson Plan I 

Chair Yoga Lesson Plan II

Chair Yoga For Seniors Lesson Plan

Dolphin Yoga Lesson Plan

Sun Moon Yoga Lesson Plan

Sun Salutations Chair Yoga Lesson Plan

Sun Salutations A Yoga Lesson Plan

Sun Salutations B Yoga Lesson Plan

Sun Salutations C Yoga Lesson Plan

Camel Peak Pose Yoga Lesson Plan

Downward Facing Dog Pose Variations Lesson Plan

Plank Peak Pose Yoga Lesson Plan

Revolved Poses Yoga Lesson Plan

Twists-Themed Yoga Lesson Plan: 41 Twist Poses To Whip Your Student’s Cores Into Shape

Valentines Yoga Lesson Plan

Yoga for Cyclists Lesson Plan

Yoga for Swimmers Lesson Plan

Yoga For Seniors Lesson Plan

Hatha Yoga Lesson Plan

Kundalini Yoga Lesson Plan

Pregnancy Yoga Lesson Plan

Yoga Therapy: Arthritic Spine Yoga Lesson Plan

Yoga Therapy: Asthma Yoga Lesson Plan 

Yoga Therapy: Hips Yoga Lesson Plan

Yoga Therapy: Opening Upper Back, Neck & Shoulders Yoga Lesson Plan

Yoga Therapy: Restorative Yoga Lesson Plan

Yoga Therapy: Soothe Sciatica Yoga Lesson Plan

Yoga Therapy: Varicose Veins Yoga Lesson Plan

Online Yoga Lesson Planner

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