Camel Pose, or Ustrasana, is a floor-based backbend supported by your knees. The name Camel Pose comes from the shape your body takes on when come into the pose, as it resembles a beautiful camel’s hump.
Generally, camel pose is practiced towards the end of a yoga class, after you have warmed up your spine in preparatory poses. It’s very important not to come into it ‘cold’ without doing the preparatory postures, or you risk hurting yourself. In yoga, each preceding posture prepares the body for the one to follow.
Camel Pose, while intense when you’re in it, is a great way to work your way into deeper backbends, especially if you have balance issues. It’s an intense pose, so always listen to your body and never go deeper into the pose than you feel you are able to at any given time. Everything comes with time and with regular practice. That’s another thing about yoga – it teaches us gentle goal setting, as well as patience.
Practising Camel Pose can help to alleviate back aches, as it relieves and stretches the front of the body, mainly the hips, which are forgotten about in every day life, especially with all the forward leading we do on our devices and at our desks.
How to enter Camel Pose
- The usual starting position for Camel Pose is kneeling on the yoga mat or floor.
- Kneel with body upright, with hips stacked over and directly in-line with your knees.
- Bring your hands to your hips.
- Engage your core, as though you were trying to draw your belly button towards your spine.
This is where we begin the backwards arc that becomes the beautiful back bend of Camel Pose.
- Reach your hands back, one at a time and take hold of your heels. If you are a little bit sweaty, fold a towel over your feet to allow for better grip.
- Press your hips forward, so that they stay in line over your knees.
- If it feels ok, tilt your head back, opening your throat chakra. Keep your shoulders down away from the ears.
- Breathe deeply here, for five full breaths, or as long as your body says this is ok. If you begin to feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed, exit the pose as below.
To exit the pose
- Bring your chin to your chest.
- Engage your core as though you were drawing your belly button into your spine. This to protect your lower back.
- Remove one hand from your heel and bring it to your hip on the same side.
- Remove the other hand and bring to your hip on the other side.
- Slowly and gently bring your body to the upright kneeling position that you started in.
Counter Pose – Childs Pose.
In yoga, as with life, there is always Ying and Yang – one thing counters, or balances the other. And so it is with Camel Pose. The counter pose for Camel Pose is Child’s Pose and it’s a beautifully restful, stress releasing pose to follow the intense posture that is Camel’s Pose.
- Builds confidence and empowerment with your practice.
- Improves posture and can counteract slouching and hunching.
- May help alleviate back pain.
- Promotes hip flexibility.
- Aids in emotional release.
- Stretches the whole front of your body – abdomen, chest, shoulders, front of your hips and front of your thighs.
- Any pre-existing back or neck injuries.
- High blood pressure.
- Knee issues.
Any yoga pose can be modified based on your body needs. Camel Pose may require some modifications until you’ve been practising yoga for a little while longer, or you may be a pro already. As I mentioned at the beginning, you must take things at your own pace to get the most from this ancient, wonderful practice.
- Tuck your toes. Instead of having the top on the foot on the floor, you may feel more balanced and have a greater reach for your heels.
- You don’t need to backbend, simply keep your hands on your hips until you are ready.
- Place yoga blocks by your feet to use if your hands can’t quite reach your heels. Bring your yoga accessories closer to you so you work smarter instead of harder.
- Place a folder blanket under your knees for comfort.
- You can keep your chin tucked, instead of tilting your head back, if it makes the pose less overwhelming.
Listen to your body, there is no need to go straight for the more intense version. It’s totally your practice and whatever you can do on that day is what you should be doing.
Always be kind to yourself, move with ease and grace. You are the most important person in your life.