Camel Pose or Ustrasana in Sanskrit was first introduced to me in Bikram yoga. I attended a Bikram class everyday for a month and was very close to entering the teacher training program. I decided to take a different path and still love the discipline, series of poses and HEAT this particular practice delivers. Camel pose is a backbend and big heart opener which may leave you feeling a tad dizzy. Doing this pose forces me to get calm and find comfort in the discomfort. Use camel pose to increase spinal flexibility and open that HEART.
Getting into the pose: Position yourself kneeling with knees hip width and thighs parallel to the mat. Place you hands with fingers pointed downward on the top of your buttocks. Use them to spread the back of your pelvis and lengthen the tailbone down. Lean back and grasp your heels with each hand. Keep the chest lifted and hips and thighs pressing forward as you breath into your backbend for 30 seconds to 1 minute. To exit the pose Imagine there is a string connected to your sternum lifting you up as you rise to kneeling with head coming up last. Rest kneeling with palms facing down on thighs for 3-5 breaths.
Alignment cues: Lift the lower back ribs away from the pelvis to keep the lower spine as long as possible. Option to curl the toes under to elevate the heels and avoid compression of the lower back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and keep your head in neutral or drop it back without straining the neck. Keep your hips stacked over knees and chest lifted.
Stretches the chest, abdomen, quadriceps and hip flexors.
Improves spinal flexibility, posture and back strength.
Creates space in the chest and lungs thereby increasing breathing capacity.
Stimulates the kidneys and aids in digestion.