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Ustrasana or Camel Pose

Benefits, Contraindications, Tips and How to Do

English Name(s)
Camel Pose
Sanskrit
उष्ट्रासन / Uṣṭrāsana
Pronunciation
OO-strah-suh-nuh
Meaning
Uṭra: “camel”
āsana: “posture”

Ustrasana at a Glance

Camel Pose or Ustrasana includes an arch at the back, so your body posture resembles the hump of a camel. This yoga pose opens the chest completely, including the shoulder blades, stretches the abdomen and strengthens the back and the neck muscles. The pose needs strength and flexibility and has the maximum benefits for a person’s overall well-being.

Benefits:

  • Camel pose Ustrasana improves the body’s flexibility and has several benefits.
  • It strengthens the lower back muscles.
  • It enhances digestion by stimulating the abdominal organs.
  • Good for maintaining thyroid levels by stimulating the pineal glands.
  • The pose opens the chest completely, thus improving the lung capacity.
  • Eases menstrual discomfort.

Who Can do it?

People who want to work on their flexibility and open their chests can practice this pose.

Who Should not do?

People with a back injury, neck injury, high blood pressure, sensitive knees, pregnancy, or recent injury should avoid or modify the pose.

Introduction

Camel pose or Ustrasana stretches the whole front body with chest, abdomen, hip flexors, and quadriceps, thus helping to improve flexibility. The yoga asana involves a back bend and is a heart-opening pose, an energy center for love, thus enhancing the mood. The pose is a great stress buster and needs both strength and flexibility. 

Chakras

The pose stimulates Anahata, Manipura, Swadhisthana and Muladhara chakra. The pose helps people feel grounded and attain the inner strength and creativity to balance life.

Philosophy

Camel pose Ustrasana motivates a person to be open-hearted and receptive to positive energy. Practicing this pose daily inculcates the feelings of higher consciousness and being one with nature. It is a great spiritual practice. This yoga posture boosts self-esteem and makes the person more confident. It stimulates the heart chakra, which is a symbol of self-love.

How to Do Camel Pose?

Follow the  Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Begin upright, kneeling on the floor, on your yoga mat. Rest on your front feet with your legs hip-width apart and your toes pointing back. Keep your spine straight.
  • Exhale, keep your hands on the buttocks. Slowly bend your back. Push your thighs slightly forward. Open your chest. Maintain deep breaths.
  • Try to push your upper body back and your pelvis forward. Stretch your arms to your feet. Extend backward.
  • Inhale, push your head back and hold your heels with your hands. You can hold your heels with your right hand first and then repeat the same with your left hand. Ensure that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Keep lengthening your spine and move your spine forward.
  • Try to push your heels further down to the floor. Press your soles further with your palms. Keep your fingers towards your toes.
  • Engage your core, tighten your hips, and draw your navel in. Try to push your head as far back as possible.
  • Hold the pose for a few breaths till you are comfortable; do not strain your neck.
  • Release the pose slowly by releasing one arm at a time slowly from the back, with your chin tucked in, and returning to kneeling, releasing your legs and relaxing.

What are the Benefits of Camel Pose?

  • Camel pose Ustrasana opens the front body and stretches the entire body, thus enhancing the flexibility of the body.
  • It relieves lower backache by increasing blood circulation and enhancing flexibility in the lower part.
  • It strengthens the spinal mobility, shoulders and back muscles, and ankles and aids good digestion.
  • The pose is a great chest opener, thus enhancing lung capacity.
  • It alleviates stress and anxiety, helps to calm the mind, and strengthens the nervous system.
  • It boosts the energy level and rejuvenates the energy.
  • This yoga posture is excellent for thyroid conditions since it stimulates the endocrine gland.
  • It is good for cardiovascular health and the release of emotions.
  • The pose is a resemblance of courage and confidence within.
  • The pose stimulates the internal organs, hence improving digestion.

Health Conditions that Might Benefit from Ustrasana

  • Camel pose and Ustrasana can help improve posture and reduce back, neck, inner thighs, hip flexors, and shoulder stiffness by promoting spinal flexibility and alignment.
  • It relieves back pain by increasing the circulation.
  • It is a good pose for thyroid imbalance, respiratory issues like asthma and cardiovascular health.
  • It aids digestion by stimulating the abdominal muscles.
  • It energizes the body by enhancing spinal flexibility.
  • The pose’s backbend helps ease menstrual discomfort and promotes relief from cramps.
  • It relieves mild depression and is a mood elevator.

Safety and Precautions

  • People with recent heart or abdominal surgery should avoid or modify the pose.
  • People with high or low blood pressure should be careful while practicing this pose.
  • People with vertigo, dizziness, or balance issues should avoid the pose.
  • People with severe headaches should avoid the intense backbend. They should modify this pose.
  • People with glaucoma or any eye issue should modify or avoid this pose, as the backbend in the pose may increase the pressure on their eyes.
  • Pregnant women should avoid or modify the backbend as it may pressure their abdominal area.
  • People with osteoporosis should avoid or modify the pose as it may worsen the condition.
  • People with recent hip, back, or other chronic injuries should avoid the pose. Use props or consult a good yoga teacher if needed.

Beginner’s Tips

  • Start with a few warm-ups to stretch your body.
  • If you feel the strain on your knees when they are close during the pose while kneeling, try to keep your knees slightly apart to give your spine free movement.
  • First, try to hold just one heel at a time. Breathe and then hold the second knee. Tilt your shoulder on one side first. Try to push your pelvic area forward.
  • Engage your core to avoid strain on your lower back. Do not tile your head too much at the back.
  • Cover the soles of the feet completely with your hands to attain the pose’s stability.
  • Rest your toes completely on the floor, and lengthen your spine with a few breaths.
  • Engage your quadriceps and keep them stretched during the practice. Ensure your thighs are perpendicular to the floor.
  • Keep your shoulder blades close to your ribs and upper arms close to each other during the back bend.
  • You can use yoga blocks if you cannot hold the soles of the feet for support.

Deepening the Pose

  • You can deepen the pose by lifting your spine at the back making an arch.
  • Your chest, armpits and spine should coil inwards towards each other. Make space between your diaphragm and the rib cage for the backbend.
  • Squeeze your buttocks, pull your navel in, draw your lower belly, and engage your core. Extend your pelvic region and the abdomen. Keep your elbows pointing outwards.
  • Create shoulder rotations with your upper arm to the front and the outer side of the arms pushed at the back. Maintain a few breaths.
  • Keep your elbows locked and maintain steady, deep breathing. Stretch your thighs upward. Stretch your spine and create a space to push even further back. Keep pushing the front of your body in front with conscious, deep breathing.

Variations

  • You can keep a yoga block below your knees. If needed, you can keep a yoga block at the back to hold if you cannot reach the soles of the feet.
  • You can practice this pose against a wall to maintain alignment and a straight spine with your thighs perpendicular to the floor.
  • Beginners can keep their palms on the buttocks and give a gentle backbend, engaging the core and keeping the upper arms close to the rib cage. Keep your fingers pointing down and your pelvis forward. This is a camel pose variation. Keep your neck and shoulders comfortable. Do not drop your neck too far at the start of the practice.
  • Consult a good yoga teacher.

Preparatory Poses

Physical Alignment Principles of Ustrasana

  • During the pose, avoid overarching your back too much. Practice slowly deepening the pose.
  • Keep your chest lifted and shoulders and neck relaxed during the pose. You can keep your heels slightly lifted off the ground or resting on the floor as comfortably as you are holding your heels.
  • While moving your arms back, take a full circle from above, elongate your spine and then progress to hold your heels. This will avoid any strain on your shoulder joints. Relax in the pose till you are comfortable, and use props if needed.

Ustrasana and the Breath

  • Ustrasana is a kneeling back bend pose. When you band backward, there is a decreased ability to breathe normally, so try to create a space by deep breathing and then bending backward backward and relaxing.
  • Keep lengthening the spine and pushing your thighs in front. Drop your neck backward with conscious breathing and relaxing your neck muscles.
  • During the back bend, your chest opens, and there is a contraction in your hamstrings and gluteus maximus.
  • Keep inhaling and extending your spine, creating space and then exhaling and relaxing in the pose.

Common Mistakes

  • Do not jump into the final pose too fast.
  • Stretch your body first before practicing this pose.
  • Keep your knees locked during the back bend.
  • Keep your spine lifted and push your body in front during the backbend. Beginners should try with a slight backbend and then, with practice, go for the deeper pose.
  • Keep your thighs pushed, your feet completely relaxed on the floor and your palms completely covering your feet to maintain the stability in the pose.

Follow-up Poses

Take Away

Ustrasana is a kneeling backbend pose and is an excellent pose to release emotional stress and maintain thyroid levels. The pose needs strength and stability and can give excellent results daily. The pose is great to add to your daily yoga practice. It is much of a flexible pose. Practice regularly, mindfully, to get more flexibility in your body physically and inner confidence and courage mentally. This is a great pose to manage a sedentary lifestyle.

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Meera Watts
Meera Watts is the owner and founder of Siddhi Yoga International. She is known worldwide for her thought leadership in the wellness industry and was recognized as a Top 20 International Yoga Blogger. Her writing on holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and other international magazines. She got the Top 100 Entrepreneur of Singapore award in 2022. Meera is a yoga teacher and therapist, though now she focuses primarily on leading Siddhi Yoga International, blogging and spending time with her family in Singapore.

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