Camel Pose | How To Do Ustrasana
The backbend is a critical aspect of yoga. But let's face it, backbend poses can be very hard to execute due to tightness in the front of the body and lack of flexibility in the spine and back muscles. Since the backbend is challenging for so many yogis, many tend to avoid it altogether. But there's no need to be that drastic in your response. If you’re struggling to master your backbend, Camel Pose is the best place to start.
This pose helps to develop the flexibility needed for backbends, while affording you the opportunity to get that deep extension in the spine without using your arms as a means for support. Some people like to use props which allows for more places to rest the arms while executing this posture.
Related: How To Master Bow Pose
How To Do Camel Pose
Follow these steps to help you get into and back out of the pose gently and safely:
- Start by kneeling on the floor, your thighs in a perpendicular position to the ground. Make sure to keep the knees and feet at hip-distance apart.
- Extend the big toe on each foot all the way back while pushing on the floor with the tops of your toes. Hold the outer ankles firm along your midline.
- Twist your inner thighs backward while releasing the buttocks to the back of the knees.
- Hold your pelvis in place above the knees, without allowing it to shift forward or backward.
- Root into the ground and pull back at the chest
- With your palms placed together at your sternum, bring your chin down to the same area.
- Inhale deep and bring your arms down with the palms facing ahead.
- Exhale with your chin lowered and the pelvis firmly in place above the knees, then bring your hands down to your heels.
- Next, push your shoulder blades forward then up and curve your spine and raise your chest.
- Now your upper back has more extension, bring your head up and let it drop back to hang.
- Keep pushing down with both feet and lower legs to help lift up the spine and chest.
- Stay in the posture for three or four breaths before releasing the pose. Start with the sternum and inhale to come back up, make sure your head is the last part to come out.
What To Avoid In Camel Pose
There are some mistakes you don't want to make when you are executing the Camel Pose. Stay mindful about not allowing yourself to do the following:
Watch Your Thighs
When you are performing Camel Pose and the chest is pulling backward, your thighs are naturally going to want to go with it. But you must not let that happen. You need to keep those thighs in an upright position so you remain in a vertical line.
Grab The Heels
Now that you're keeping your eye on your thighs, you may next realize you're having a tough time reaching your heels. Feel free to use a set of blocks placed on either side so you have a shorter distance to reach with your hands. If that still doesn't feel right, simply place both hands at the lower back. Be sure to keep your fingers pointed to the floor and squeeze the elbows together.
As with any pose, be sure to make some adjustments or refrain from the pose altogether if you feel any pain or discomfort in the back, neck, and shoulders during the pose or if you have had any recent injuries or surgeries in these areas. Pregnant women should also avoid doing Camel Pose since the posture could cause tearing in the abdominal walls if they are stretched too far. This is particularly important during the third trimester.
Increasing The Difficulty
Some yogis find Camel Pose to be challenging enough all on its own. But you can also make the pose even tougher by trying some variations. You can grab opposite ankles with your hands or alternate the position of your hands, with one holding an ankle and the other reaching for the sky.
Benefits Of Camel Pose
A pose this challenging should come with significant benefits, and with Camel Pose you can enjoy both physical and mental advantages. As you may have guessed, the pose can relieve back pain, fight against poor posture and kyphosis and even fight against the slouching and back pain that comes from sitting at your desk in front of a computer all day.
The pose can also strengthen the muscles throughout the back of your body from the shoulders to the thighs to the glutes. You’ll also get a good stretch through the shoulders, chest, abdomen, hip flexors, and quads. While you're doing all of this good to your body, you're also building self-confidence and improved body image.
As we mentioned earlier, refrain from performing Camel Pose if you ever feel pain or discomfort or you're dealing with an injury, a recent surgery, or a chronic condition in the back, neck, shoulders, or legs. But you should also be careful not to force yourself into the position when your body is clearly struggling to maintain it or having difficulty getting into it without straining to do so.
With backbends, it's very important not to push yourself too far. You might not have the proper flexibility yet, but with practice and careful execution, you will find yourself performing Camel Pose before you know it!
Looking to learn more great yoga poses? Check out the Yoga Society Yoga Poses Blog