Camel - Ustrasana

Ustrasana, also known as camel pose  is a big heart opener with many benefits. Camel, a part of both of our A and B series, is a pose that seems to be either loved or hated by our students. Those who love it experience the many benefits of pose. Camel stretches the hip flexors, thighs and abdominal muscles. It improves flexibility in the thoracic spine and opens the shoulders and chest. If you hate it then you may be one of the unlucky ones who experiences nausea or dizziness when coming out of it.  However, these symptoms can be minimized with a few proper alignment tips.

The foundation of this pose is in the tops of the feet, ankles, shins and knees. The shins and knees should be hip width apart and the thighs perpendicular to the floor.  The tendency is to crunch into the lower back, but this can be avoided by spinning the inner thighs back and pressing the sacrum/tailbone firmly into the body. Tip –  If you are clenching your butt, you’re probably crunching into your lower back

The lower body is rooted and the upper body is lifting from the back ribs. Make sure you arch evenly through the torso (no hinging at the front ribs). Extend your sternum away from the navel and broaden through the shoulder blades.  Proper head and neck alignment is integral to this pose. When there is enough curve in the thoracic spine then you can drop your head back with no compression in the neck. Often the nausea and dizziness is caused from dipping your head back before this curve is established. Following are some major points to focus on: 

  • Press the shins and knees down evenly into the mat
  • Keep thighs perpendicular to the floor
  • Lift the front hip bones and firm the side hips in 
  • Lift the sternum toward the ceiling
  • Lift the back ribs off the back waist
  • Externally rotate and straighten the arms
  • If you can place hands on the heels, then reach the fingers in the direction of the toes so the heel of the hand rests on the heel of the foot

Common mistakes:

1. Chest is collapsed and shoulders are lifted up around the ears

2. Hinging at the knees and/or hips are not above the knees

3. Lower back is arched

Next time you are in this yoga pose, just know there are plenty of variations you can try. You can tuck your toes under so your heels are higher. You can also put your hands on your buttocks to extend the back. If this pose ALWAYS makes you dizzy, don’t feel compelled to drop your head back, you can experience all the benefits of this heart opener without taking it to it’s fullest expression.

Give Ustrasana (Camel) another try and let us know how it goes! 


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