Camel Pose - Ustrasana

How to Do Camel Pose - Ustrasana
Camel Pose - Ustrasana. Ann Pizer

Type of pose: Backbend, heart opener

Benefits: Stretches the front of the body including the chest, abdomen, and quadriceps. Improves spinal mobility.

When we talk about backbends in yoga, most people probably picture full wheel. But camel is a more accessible pose for a lot of yoga students. Full wheel is undeniably a backbend, but it's also a lot about arm strength and shoulder flexibility. If you don't have those things, you can't get the full benefits of this pose.

Camel allows you to experience deep spinal extension without having to support your weight with your arms. It's also a much more flexible pose. With props, you have a lot of options for your arm position. 

One of the most common problems in camel is keeping the thighs upright. As you take the chest back, you want to make sure that your thighs are following it and ending up slanting back instead of staying fully vertical. To check if this is happening, take you pose over to a wall. Set up with the front of your thighs on the wall. As you reach back, make sure that your thighs and even your hip points stay in contact with the wall the whole time. You may find that you can't reach your heels as easily when you really monitor you thigh position. If this is the case, adjust your grip by taking one of the heel variations described below. This is a good exercise for both beginning and advanced students.

Instructions:

1. Stand up on your knees with your hips stacked over the knees. Take padding (a blanket or fold your mat so it is double thickness) under your knees if they are sensitive.

2. Draw your hands up the side of your body until your thumbs reach your arm pits. Hook your thumbs into your pits for support as you start to open your chest toward the ceiling.

3. Maintain the position of your chest as you reach your hands back one at a time to grasp your heels. If you need a little more height, tuck your toes under. Otherwise the tops of the feet can be flat on the floor.

4. Bring your hips forward so that they stay over your knees.

5. If it feels good, let your head come back, opening your throat. If that doesn't work for your neck, you can keep the chin tucked instead. 

Beginners' Tips:

1. Use blocks on either side of your feet if you need a little more height for your hands.

2. You can keep your hands on your low back if reaching back for your feet or blocks isn't a good fit.

Advanced Tips:

1. Try taking hold of opposite ankles.

2. You can also try a variation where one arm holds your heel while the other one reaches toward the ceiling.

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