Every yoga pose, known in Sanskrit as an “asana,” has its own way of bringing the body and mind into greater harmony. World-renowned yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar poetically compares the body to a bow and each asana to the various arrows with which individuals target the ultimate aim of yoga practice — the soul.
This guide offers an in-depth look at camel pose (ustrasana).
About the Pose
This pose derives its name from the mighty camel — an animal that radiates fortitude and endurance. You may not think of camels as beautiful creatures, but you’ll shape yourself into one of their sumptuous humps while practicing this arching backbend. Like camels, humans have bodies designed to withstand life’s challenges. Exercise your body so it can help you cross the desert. Level: Beginner Key Benefits:
- Strengthens the spine and back muscles
- Stretches the thighs and shoulders
- Corrects posture
- Increases lung capacity
- Opens the hips
- Aids blood circulation
- Alleviates menstrual cramps
- Individuals with severe constipation, diarrhea, or high blood pressure should avoid this pose.
- People who experience migraines and headaches also should skip this pose.
- Upward Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana): This intermediate pose promotes healthy blood circulation, reinforces the spine, and strengthens organs in the abdominal and pelvic regions.
- Chair Pose (Utkatasana): This beginner pose builds strength and willpower.
- Standing Backbend (Anuvittasana): This beginner pose improves circulation, tones the spine, and strengthens the abdominal muscles.
Trying It Out
Remember to keep your breathing full and steady as you follow these step-by-step instructions to try this pose out for yourself:
Kneel on your knees with your feet pointing behind you. Rest your arms at your sides. Keep your torso upright and your buttocks off your legs.
Lift your head and place your hands on your buttocks, keeping your arms close together. Gently bend your back, using your hands to support you, and expand your chest.
Push your shoulders back even more and stretch your arms down until your hands hold the heels of your feet (reach for them one at a time, if that’s easier). Bend your neck back, but don’t let your head fall. Try to keep your hips and thighs perpendicular to the floor.
Slide your hands down on your feet so they press them into the floor and your palms cover the bottoms of your feet. Tighten your buttocks and pull your tailbone in as you lift your sternum upward.
Breathe in this pose for 30 seconds.
Refining the Pose
Achieving maximum benefit from your yoga practice requires you to pay close attention to your physical alignment. To ensure you maintain proper alignment, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you holding your head up enough so it doesn’t droop or strain your throat?
- Have you opened your chest and pushed your shoulder blades back?
- Have you engaged your buttocks, thighs, and quadriceps?
- Half Camel Pose (Ardha Ustrasana): Using only one hand on the corresponding heel, lift your other arm up behind your head.
- Camel Pose With Blocks (Supported Ustrasana): This variation provides a gentler backbend by allowing you to balance your hands on two blocks.
- Camel Pose With One Leg in Front (Ustrasana Variation One Leg in Front): Instead of pressing both of your legs to the floor, this variation involves pressing one foot on the floor in front of you with your knee bent.
- Camel Pose With Hands on the Floor (Ustrasana Variation Hands on the Floor): This variation involves placing your hands behind your feet with your fingers pointing backward and leaning your weight on your arms. You then lift your hips and buttocks to lengthen your torso in front of you.
- Camel Pose With Hands on Buttocks (Ustrasana Variation Hands on Buttocks): Another gentle variation involves resting your hands on your buttocks as noted in Step Two above.