How To Do Camel Pose
Say it like this: OOH-tra-AA-SUN-aa
The Sanskrit name comes from Ustra meaning camel and asana meaning pose.
The Camel pose is an intermediate level back bending posture that stretches the whole front of the body. It is performed on your knees, sometimes in preparation for deeper backbends.
Stretches the front of the body especially the chest and abdomen, quadriceps and the hip flexors (the front hip joints). It strengthens the back muscles and greatly increases spinal flexibility and improves posture. Your breathing capacity will be improved and any respiratory problems alleviated because practising this pose creates space in the chest and lungs. Digestion can also be improved because Ustrasana stimulates the kidneys.
This pose is energising and thus helps to reduce fatigue, stress and anxiety. Practising can sometimes bring an emotional response to the practitioner because the heart and throat centres (the fourth and fifth chakras) are often protected by poor posture and slouching.
Sometimes Ustrasana is known as the heart opening pose and because of this it is important to stay calm, centred and very aware of your feelings and emotions when practising. It is credited with increased creativity and the relief of anxiety and stress.
This pose should not be practised if you have any of the following contraindications:
High or low blood pressure, migraine or insomnia and avoid if you have any kind of low back, neck or shoulder injury. As always work within the limits of your physical ability and listen to your body.
Start by kneeling upright with your knees hip width apart. Press your shins and tops of your feet into the mat. Now inhale, press the knees down and stretch your head up, lengthening your spine.
Exhale and press the hips forward squeezing your buttocks and thighs and supporting your weight with your hands as you press backwards. Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis fingers pointing towards the floor and then lean back with your chest slightly tucked down towards your chest. If you are a beginner or not very flexible you can stop here with your hands on your back pelvis.
If you are comfortable the pose can be deepened. Reach back and hold onto your heels one hand at a time and hold tightly whilst actively lifting your chest toward the ceiling. Keep your head neutral or let it drop back if you feel safe. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds or 3 to 6 breaths.
To release, first bring your hands round to your front hips and inhale, then lift your body by pushing your hips towards the floor and finally slowly raise your head.
Rest in Balasana (child’s pose) or Savasana (corpse pose)
To modify Camel Pose if you have difficulty touching hands to feet try tucking your toes under which will elevate your heels. If it is still not possible to reach your feet or it is uncomfortable, you can put your hands on yoga blocks or folded towels placed by the outside of each foot.
If you are an experienced practitioner you can deepen the pose by squeezing a block between your thighs or by pressing your thighs, calves and the inside of your feet together.
During backbends it is very important to take great care not to collapse into the pose. Keep your pelvis stable as your sternum rises towards the ceiling. Take it slowly and stop if you feel any pain. Be careful not to strain your neck, it should be extended without forcing and be comfortable throughout the pose.
Ultrasana opens you up and therefore can be emotionally moving. Be aware of your breath which will keep your thoughts focused and calm. If you feel your breath shortening ease up slightly till it returns to normal.