Camel Pose — Ustrasana (ooh-STRAHS-uh-nuh) — Sanskrit words “ustra” (meaning “camel”) and “asana” (meaning “pose”). Practicing Ustrasana daily can be a great way to relieve neck and back pain caused by slouching in front of a computer or driving.
• Ustrasana stretches the front of the body, particularly the chest, abdomen, quadriceps, and hip flexors. It improves spinal flexibility, while also strengthening the back muscles and improving posture. This pose creates space in the chest and lungs, increasing breathing capacity and helping to relieve respiratory ailments. Ustrasana also stimulates the kidneys, which improves digestion. This pose energizes the body and helps to reduce anxiety and fatigue.
• Known as a “heart opening” yoga pose, Ustrasana stimulates and balances both the fourth and fifth chakras, located at the heart and throat centers, respectively. In many practitioners, the heart and throat centers are often closed off and protected, as evidenced by slouching, lowered chins, and poor posture. For this reason, practicing Ustrasana can sometimes stir up emotions in the practitioner more than other poses. It is important to keep a calm awareness of your feelings when practicing this pose; fear of your emotions can create stiffness in the body and may lead to injury.
Ustrasana can be an energizing way to gain spinal flexibility. However, it’s important to learn how to do it correctly to avoid injury and strain. Remember never to force your body into the pose. Practice a modified version until you have gained the amount of flexibility and strength you need to safely go deeper. Try these simple changes to find a variation that works for you:
• When practicing backbends, it is crucial to create length between your vertebrae, being careful not to collapse or crunch into the pose. Keep your pelvis stable as you lift and lengthen your sternum toward the sky.
• Take the pose slowly, only going as deep as your body will allow without pain
• Do not practice this pose if you are currently experiencing high or low blood pressure, insomnia, or a migraine. Also avoid this pose if you have a low back or neck injury. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.