This month we take a look at Camel Pose or Ustrasana. ‘Ustra’ is the Sanskrit word for Camel and, as you may well already know, ‘Asana’ means pose.
Ustrasana is a pose which serves as both a backbend as well as a chest opener. Postures which achieve this are beneficial for a variety of reasons. Aside from focus and concentration required to achieve this pose and to improve on it, from a physical perspective Ustrasana serves to strengthen the back muscles while also stretching the entire front side of the body; including your hip flexors, ankles, thighs, groins, abdomen and chest. It is also said to stimulate the organs of your abdomen and throat.
The effects on the mind can be powerful as well. Chest openers such as this one are generally said to be uplifting poses, elevating mood and helping with anxiety issues. The Camel pose, in particular, can help with respiratory ailments, mild backache, fatigue and anxiety. Of course, these benefits as with other benefits that come with the practice of yoga are achieved only if the pose is practiced on a regular basis.
How to get into Camel Pose
- Start kneeling upright, knees hip-width apart – toes tucked under or flat with the toes on the floor.
- Place your hands on your lower back – fingers pointing up or down.
- Lean back with your chin slightly tucked under and with your hips and thighs pressing forward. This will lead to an arching of the back which, if you are a beginner, is far enough for now. If you want to go a little further take your hands towards your heels (feet flat, toes touching the floor or tucked under to elevate the heels) and with hands coming down one after the other rest them on the heels while the fingers point downwards towards your toes.
- Once you’ve managed this, lift up through your pelvis and keep your lower spine long. Keep your head in a neutral position or, if you do not have any neck problems, allow it to drop back without straining or crunching your neck.
- Hold for a period of 20 to 60 seconds.
- To get out of the posture, bring your hands back to your lower back. Inhale, leading back up with your chest followed by your head which should come up last.
It is a good idea to avoid attempting the Camel pose if your have any knee or joint issues, severe problems with you lower back or have been diagnosed with low or high blood pressure. As with all yoga practice it is vital that you gain guidance from a qualified instructor before attempting this, or any other, of the yoga poses available. They are at their most valuable and effective only when done properly. Most importantly of all, enjoy yourself!
After beginning her practice several years ago, The Power Yoga Co contributor Mona Heep quickly developed a passion for yoga, completing her teacher training under Stewart Gilchrist. Her classes focus very much on the essence of yoga, the relationship between movement and breath which calm the mind. You can find her at http://monaheepyoga.com/ or on her Facebook page at Facebook/yogamonalondon.