CAMEL – USTRASANA
Camel pose is right what you need if you are used to passing long hours in front of a computer screen or behind your car wheel, or even if you have a tendency to close into yourself, physically and emotionally.
Avoid it if you have any problem or pain in your back or neck. Otherwise, follow my tips and get ready to enjoy it!
- To enter in Camel Pose, aka Ustrasana, kneel on your mat keeping your knees hips width apart, your thighs rotating inwards and top of your feet on the floor. To begin, keep your torso upright, hands on the back of your pelvis with fingers pointing down and draw your sit bones in.
- Inhale to lengthen the spine and create space in your body into which you are going to bend. On the exhale, gently arch backwards, holding your chin slightly toward your chest in this first phase and keeping your core active to avoid strain on your lower back. Keep drawing your sit bones in. Beginners can hold this posture.
- If you feel comfortable instead, you can deepen your backbend. In doing so, grab your heels with your hands while pulling your pelvis and thigh forward to avoid collapsing into the pose. Keep your neck in a neutral position: you can also drop it slightly backwards, but avoid crunching or any kind of strain.
Hold the pose at least for three complete breathe cycles.
- On the final inhale, come back to point 1, placing your hands by your hips again.
- If you feel you are almost there, but cannot completely reach the posture described in point 3, you can help yourself tucking your toes, so that it will be easier to hold your heels.
- In alternative, you can place two blocks by the sides of your feet and place your hands on them, at the height you feel more comfortable with.
- Most expert practitioners can opt for the most traditional variation of Ustrasana, as described in B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga. According to it, the whole asana should be performed keeping knees and thighs together. This challenges particularly the sciatica and lower back, which is why teachers usually suggest keeping them slightly apart.
BENEFITS AND SYMBOLIC MEANING
On the physical, and most superficial level, Camel Pose is beneficial to open chest and shoulders and to increase the whole spine flexibility.
On the emotional, and deeper level, performing Ustrasana you will find yourself exposing some vulnerable parts of your body that most people tend to protect and hide with their closed posture. First, the pressure created on the belly and its extension invite emotions to turn up. Then, this type of backbend is in fact beneficial to activate Anahata, the heart Chakra and Visuddha, the Throat Chakra. Those are respectively associated with emotions, love and ability to give and receive (Anahata) and with communication, the ability to find the words to describe our own emotions, give them a name and express them.
Hence the significance Camel Pose, noticing the emotions arising from our belly, feeling them into our heart and expressing them through our throat, in the form of words but also of energy.
You can also enjoy a short meditation in Camel pose, closing your eyes and imagining this energy spreading out of your body in the form of a ray of light stemming from your heart and neck and going up toward the sky.