Ustrasana - Camel Pose:
Ustra = Camel

Benefits: Opens up the whole front of the body – the chest, the hip flexors, the thighs, the biceps, and the shoulders.

yogi: Maui's Nadia Toraman

Technique: Kneel on the floor with the torso and thighs perpendicular to the floor. The tops of the feet and the thighs are your roots.

In preparation, elongate away from those roots by lengthening the sternum upwards. This is an important step. This upward lift creates length in the vertebral disks of the spine. If you do not get this spinal length, when you commence back-bending the disks in the lower back will become crushed. Remember the object is to lengthen the front of the body and not compress the spine.
Bring the hands to the lower back with the finger tips pointing up. Not losing this length, on an exhalation, press the hips and thighs forward. Keep the shoulder blades rolled inwards to open up the muscles of the chest and the biceps. Bring a curve into the mid-back (thoracic spine) to a degree that feels comfortable to you. Extend the neck without creating any undue strain.

If you can maintain this level of the pose comfortably than go deeper. The second level of the pose is to bring the right hand down to the right heel. If this feels like it is enough, just bring the left arm towards the ceiling (remembering to bring the left hand to the left heel and the right hand up the second time you do the pose).

If there is no jamming in the lower back, neck or shoulders, proceed to the final version of the pose, which means the left hand is on the left heel and the right hand is on the right heel. Take the head back and look back.

copyright 2002 eoin finn


Ifat Erez Camel Pose

It is important to realize that when viewed from the side, the hips extend further forward than any other part of the body. Some people lose this in their zeal to get there hands on there feet before they are ready. Imagine someone’s hands on the front of your pelvis. Press forward into those hands again without losing the lift and separation in the disks of the lumbar (lower) spine. Don’t forget to press the shins down and the feet back.

Keep the ujaii breaths flowing freely feeling how this helps to keep the mind. Learn to feel the places that feel "stuck", send the breath there. Make sure that you are not using only your supple areas and ignoring the stiff places in the back. It is those stiff places in particular that we are trying to give love to!

This pose is closely related to other backbends like Dhanurasana, Bow Pose (same pose done with the abdomen on the floor), and Urdvha Danurasana, Upward Bow (done in a supine position with the shoulders and feet only on the floor).