Sandra Sammartino: A celebration of Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)

Sandra SammartinoSandra Sammartino believes there is a place for everyone in Shoulderstand.

Sarvangasana is often termed the “queen” of yoga poses for the benefits it offers to the body. Yet the feminine pose has also been regarded as one of the most dangerous ones to be avoided, especially by beginners. The problem isn’t the pose, says Sandra — it’s the way the pose taught.

“Shoulderstand is one of the most healing asanas. These are the positions that can bring you into your body, and it is truly a work of art,” Sandra says.

Along with shoulder stand, plough and fish are in the same category, says the 72-year-old White Rock resident, who has been practicing yoga for over 40 years. These are the poses she loves to teach, and will be doing so at the 2014 Victoria Yoga Conference.

“There really is a place for everyone in these poses, and your body will NOT stop you, that’s why they need to be taught properly” she says.

Sandra first discovered yoga at age 29. She became enchanted by the notion of how a person could move emotions and energy through the body, and it was this that gave her insight into healing. She decided to become a teacher, back when yoga was considered “weird,” and it was through this new weird phenomenon that she grew her life’s passion.

“I started teaching in the early ’70s, back when you wouldn’t admit to being a teacher. Back then, aerobics was what was popular and we seemed to get all the rejects from aerobics class,” she says.

Since then, Sandra has trained hundreds of yoga teachers and regularly hosts retreats in BC, Alberta, Manitoba and the Grand Cayman. With her bent “to heal the planet,” she is passionate about raising the consciousness of people through yoga and social media. Sandra is also the co-founder of Unity in Yoga (now Yoga Alliance) and founder of Yoga Outreach, a non-profit society bringing yoga to those without access. This January, she just released her first e-book, Yoga Fiction: Yoga Truth.

“I believe yoga is flourishing because people need it. The planet is dying, and people need to wake up. Yoga is waking people up.”

Sandra says that now, at 72, yoga is everything to her. She credits it for her youthful, spry demeanor and says that she has no idea how some of her peers get on without it. Her biggest lesson in life has been that yoga itself has little to do with the poses — it’s all about the mindset, and understanding the benefits that come from awareness.

“When our prana is aligned, our creativity comes. Asanas flow prana through the body, and whatever we focus on develops,” she says. “Because the thing is, the problems never go away — we just get better at handling them.”
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