Tips for Ustrasana (Camel) Pose
I was amazed by all the positive comments and likes on my “ustrasana” camel pose yesterday.
Y’all, I have a confession to make.
When I first started doing yoga ten years ago, camel pose was my favorite.
And then… I realized how to actually do camel pose and I hated it. For years!
Then I started to be like, okay camel, we got this! And I started to practice it more and find some compassion for camel.
And then…I was in my bad car accident last summer and couldn’t release my neck. There went camel pose!
Then my hatred for camel became, oh please don’t hurt my neck, camel. I was actually afraid of hurting myself. I avoided the pose. But I couldn’t avoid it forever…because it is seriously a great pose!
So then I learned how to properly open my heart and go into the pose safely…while protecting AND releasing the neck.
Whether or not you like camel pose, we can all learn a few tips to improve our back-bend and find greater ease in camel!
How I love camel (again) by practicing it safely and with proper alignment:
1) Keep the hips pressing forward in camel pose. Inner thighs press back as your hips press forward. Lengthen the tailbone down.
2) Ground the tops of the feet into the ground. Make sure your feet are directly behind your knees and not splaying inwards. I prefer that the tops of the toes rest on the floor. (Probably because I run so much, I feel a toe stretch with the tops of the toes tucked under! Also, tops of the toes tucked will also reduce the back-bend.) Press your shins firmly into the floor.
3) Start with hands to sacrum. Lengthen the entire torso before beginning to back-bend. Lift up through the back body as your shoulder blades come onto the back. Arch the spine.
4) Keep the head up at the beginning. Lean back, arching the spine, as you continue to press your hips forward. Continue lifting the back ribs away from the pelvis (lengthening the back body) as you bring your spine into the back-bend. Shoulders melt down away from the ears.
5) If you can keep the shoulders onto the back, the chest shining forward, and length in the back of the neck, only THEN should you mindfully drop the neck back. (As shown below.) There should be NO discomfort. Lift lift LIFT the chest as you drop back and do not stop lifting the chest! This pose is all about the lumbar spine (lower back) and not the cervical spine (neck). If you lose the back-bend to drop the head, keep the head lifted!! (Easy solution, yeah?) This is just yoga y’all and there is NO PRIZE for dropping the head back…I promise! The prize is doing the pose to the best of your ability and in the best way for YOUR body. We don’t need to be Yoga Journal cover models to get the benefit of the pose for our body!
6) Hands may stay on the top of the pelvis or, if you are ready, hands may find the tops of the feet.
7) Breathe, breathe, breathe!!
8) MINDFULLY and SLOWLY come out of the pose. Return your hands to your sacrum. Lead with the heart to come up. Do NOT jut the chin and brain forward quickly, but mindfully exhale and come up and out of the pose.
9) Come to your knees for a moment. Breathe.
10) Counter with extended child’s pose. Hold for several breaths.
If you want your camel to have multiple humps pause at step 9. Return for camel pose 2. Only practice child’s pose after you have completed ALL of your camels and are done back-bending.
Do you like camel pose? Why or why not? What is your favorite back-bend?