In many hundreds of yoga poses accessible to us, a few of them are extra special. Ushtrasana or camel pose is certainly one of them. Why? You ask. Because it is one of the few yoga poses that work the thoracic spine in a way that nothing else does. Our modern-day lifestyle of being at a desk, or on our smartphones or on a computer all day makes us hunch forward. Rounding our thoracic spine impacts us in more ways than we understand. And more than ever before it is necessary to practice yoga poses like ushtrasana or camel pose to counter the effects of our lifestyle on our bodies.
Meaning of Ushtrasana
‘Ushtra’ means camel in Sanskrit and ‘Asana’ is ‘pose’.
Who can do Ushtrasana?
Ustrasana can be done by anyone who practices yoga regularly. And has no mid or upper back disc issues. Pregnant women should stay away from this pose.
How to do Ushtrasana?
- Start on your knees. Legs shoulder width apart. Toes uncurled. Hands on your hips. Shoulders rolled back. Elbows closer together
- Drop the tailbone. Press the shins into the mat
- Inhale, lift the upper chest (near the armpit side of the chest) and start to arch back. Keep the chin tucked close to the chin
- When you hit your limit, pause, lift the chest again and slowly release one hand at a time onto the heels.
- Press the hands on the heels and lift the upper chest one more time. Push the hips forward to maintain them over the knees. Drop tailbone again
- Roll the shoulders back and down in this pose
- Inhale again and release the head back slowly.
- Stay for a few more breaths and slowly straighten back up and come out of the pose
- Remind yourself not to start the pose by dropping the head back first. This is the main reason why people do not like this pose as much. Starting with the head (the heaviest part of your body) may create discomfort in your lower spine. Head goes into the pose at the end and comes out of the pose at the end as well.
- Many people feel dizzy or nauseous in this Ushtrasana, try keeping the chin tucked in at the chest. And avoid dropping the head back. This should help make the pose more accessible (or bearable in this case)
- If you cannot reach your heels, use a bolster under your hands. Do this for as long as needed
- Keep breathing as sometimes holding the breath in backward bends can leave you with a headache
Benefits of Ushtrasana
- Stretches the front body
- Improves posture
- Improves respiration
- Elevates mood
- Good for people who experience depression
- helpful to people with asthma
- Maintains shoulder flexibility
- Prevents or counters the hunch back effect
- Alleviates lower back discomfort
- Increases confidence
- Brings about a sense of lightness in the body
Mistakes in Ushtrasana
Often knowing what not to do can be very helpful.
- Hips tend to fall back. Keep hips over knees
- Throwing the head back
- Holding the breath
- Closing the eyes
- Tailbone not dropped
- Fingers turned in instead of out
- Going too far too soon
How long to stay in Ushtrasana?
It depends purely on your skill level. If you are a beginner work on shorter holds with more repetitions. If you are more advanced in your practice, stay longer. Only if reasonable for your yoga practice.