Camel Pose (Ustrasana) is a fantastic counter to sitting. Most people lack the ability to sit well for any length of time and gradually their back, neck and shoulders collapse out of alignment. You need yoga to help restore and strengthen your posture. You need camel pose in your life for spinal health, postural health and health in your vital energy. Learn how to do camel pose in yoga class here.
Camel, along with other back bends, can counter these tendencies. Camel opens your hip flexors, psoas, chest muscles and some rotator muscles in the shoulders. The entire front of your torso is opened, lengthwise and breadthwise.
Many people, however, find camel stimulates strong sensations. If you experience either light-headedness or nausea in this pose you are not alone. Much reading and research on the matter as a result of receiving questions such as, “Why do I feel sick in camel?” has not yielded a precise scientific answer. Open your minds to the possibility that opening your heart and throat in camel releases emotional scars or fears. If you want to protect yourself you curl up in a ball. Camel asks for you to uncurl and open up in the opposite direction. Perhaps the sick feeling you get in camel comes from emotional distress at coming out of your protective curled up ball and laying yourself open.
- Begin kneeling with your knees and feet hip width apart. You may have your toes tucked under or you may plantar flex your feet, point your toes and rest on the tops of your feet.
- Place your hands either side of your spine, just above your buttocks and wrap your elbows towards one another behind you. Ideally, have your thumbs close to your spine and your fingers facing upwards. As an alternative, have your fingers facing downwards with your thumbs towards the outer sides of your body.
- Reach your tailbone down towards the floor and lift the front of your pelvis upwards. This is very important, especially for people with a sway back (hyper-lordotic), to avoid excessive compression in the joints of your low back.
- Create stability in your lower body and mid-body. Root your feet and shins down to the floor, engage your quadriceps and draw the pit of your belly in towards your spine (uddiyana bandha).
- Press your hips forward and align your thighs vertically over your knees.
- Draw your shoulders straight back and slide your shoulder blades in towards your spine. Lift your sternum/breast bone up towards the ceiling.
- Keep lifting your chest up and drawing your shoulder blades down your back. Deepen your back bend into your lower back if you can do so. Do not simply collapse into your low back. Lift up and out of your low back.
- The last portion of your spine to bend back is your neck. Only lift your chin and slowly allow your head to hang back if it feels alright for you to do so.
- You may reach back one hand at a time to catch hold of your heels. This is more advanced. If you are just working towards this, begin with your toes tucked under. Doing so lifts your heels higher and makes catching your heels with your hands easier.
- In taking your hands to your heels, do not drop your hips back from the line of your knees. Take your hands to your heels to deepen the back bend in your spine. Stack your hips over your knees. Lift your thoracic spine into your chest.
- Maintain a calm flow of breath and a steady gaze/dristhi
Your body is magnificent and performs millions of functions a day without your conscious thought. In Camel, trust the brilliance of your body. Instead of telling it what to do or how deep to bend backwards, let your body tell you. Learn to trust yourself.