Camel
USTRĀSANA (उष्ट्रासन)
(oosh-TRAAH-sah-nah)

 


‘Ustra’= camel, ‘āsana’= posture


Alternate Names

Ushtrāsana

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Pose Type: Back-Bend / Stretch / Hip Opener / Inversion / Kneeling / Balance

1. Start in Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana), kneeling with your feet tucked under and your thighs over your calf muscles.
2. Engage your quadriceps and rise to your knees away from your heels. Make sure your hips, thighs, and knees are stacked over each other, that your knees relatively hip distance apart, and your back is straight. Your shins should be parallel to each other with the tops of your feet on the mat.
3. Place your hands on your lower back, around the tailbone, with your fingers pointing down. Slowly and gently begin to bend back into a mild backbend.
4. Keep your chest open, and your shoulders broad, as you lengthen the neck back softly and slowly and gaze toward the sky. Make sure to stop at a point before it becomes uncomfortable. Your neck does not have to go all the way back.
5. When you are ready, breathe in and slowly start to bend your back further back. Tuck in your tummy, push your hips forward, and reach your hands back to grab your heels. Make sure to breathe smoothly.
6. Feel the stretch through your back as you lengthen through each vertebra up to the crown of your head.
7. Be sure to keep your hips stacked over your knees, with your hips slightly pressed forward, and your tailbone down. Continue to feel the stretch through your thighs, abdomen, and up through your chest.
8. Relax into the pose and hold for a couple of breaths.
9. Keep your chest open and above the shoulders by drawing your shoulder blades together and pointing your chest toward the sky.
10. Press into the shins, through to the tops of your feet. Energize your thighs by rooting your knees, shins, and feet to the mat.
11. With every inhale, try to deepen the stretch by relaxing the spine. Keep the neck soft.
12. When you are ready, exhale and slowly come out of the pose by releasing your heels. Roll through each vertebra, and then gradually bring the head and neck up last.

Common Adjustments
• Hips, thighs, and knees not stacked
• Shins and tops of feet not grounded to the floor
• Lower back compressed or pinched
• Strained or collapsed neck
• Shoulders and chest are not broad and open
• Shoulders rolled forward
• Elbows locked
• Tailbone not down
• Hips not slightly pushed forward

Modifications
• Students who do not have a flexible back can keep their hands on their lower back around the tailbone. The focus will be on lengthening through the sternum, opening the chest, and slightly tilting back. They set up will be the same as a full camel, except they will not reach for their heels and they may not be able to rotate their neck back to look at the sky. Students can also place a stable chair behind their back to rest their hands on as they build their strength and flexibility.
• To help students with alignment and/or to build strength, they can either practice next to a wall so that their hips, thighs, and knees are lined up or they can place a block between their feet or inner thighs.
• Students who cannot reach their heels can either, a) tuck their toes in, flexing their feet, and raise their heels, b) place a blanket or bolster under their feet to raise the heels, c) use a strap around the shoulders and shines to gently deepen the bend, d) place blocks on both sides by the heels to place their hands on, e) they can practice close to a wall so they can place their hands on the wall, or f) they can also place a stool with a blanket and/or a bolster on it behind their back to rest on.
• Students with sensitive knees can place a blanket or bolster under them for extra cushion.
• Students that have neck discomfort, or high blood pressure, should tuck the chin to the chest.
• To deepen the pose, cross your arms and grab the opposite heel or rest hands on the soles of your feet.

Counter Poses
• Staff (Dandasana)
• Child’s Pose (Balasana) and Extended Child’s Pose (Utthita Balasana)
• Forward Bend, Standing (Uttanasana) or Half Forward Bend, Standing (Ardha Uttanasana)
• Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
• Plow (Halasana)
• Cat (Marjaryasana)
• Rabbit / Hare (Sasangasana)
• Dolphin (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)
• Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
• Forward Bend, Standing Big Toe (Padangusthasana)
• Forward Bend, Seated (Paschimottanasana)
• Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana) or Shoulder Stand, Supported (Salamba Sarvangasana)
• Corpse (Savasana) or Reverse Corpse (Advasana)
• Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana) or Bound Angle Reclining (Supta Baddha Konasana)
• Hero (Virasana) or Supine Hero (Supta Virasana)

Anatomy
• Neck• Shoulders (Deltoid) and Chest (Pectoralis Major and Minor)
• Abdomen (Core) and Obliques• Upper (Cervical), Middle (Thoracic), and Lower (Lumbar) Back
• Hips (Iliopsoas and Psoas Major and Minor)• Gluteus Maximus and Medius
• Quadriceps and Hamstrings• Knees
• Calf muscles• Ankles

Benefits
• Stretches and strengthens the chest, throat, back / spine, hips / pelvis, shoulders, abdominal muscles, groin, glutes, ankles, knees (with props), quadriceps, and hamstrings. By strengthening these areas, posture / alignment and digestion can improve and your mind / legs will be energized. It can also relieve mild depression, anxiety, fatigue, mild backaches / tightness, neck strain, stiffness in the shoulders and ankles, and menstrual discomfort.
• Improves flexibility by stretching around the spine and hips and opens the hip flexors (psoas) and chest.
• Therapeutic for those with asthma by improving respiration. It also balances and improves the thyroid gland, liver and kidneys while stimulating the respiratory, circulatory, nervous and endocrine systems.

Contraindications
1. Students who need to strengthen their backs, have injured their backs, knees, shoulders, or neck (or have inflammation in these areas), have a hernia, had a heart attack or recent abdominal surgery, should avoid this posture unless they use a modification or props. Avoid if have osteoporosis or osteitis.
2. Students with a headache / migraine, hypertension, constipation, diarrhea, insomnia, or depression should avoid this pose as having the neck thrown back can make it difficult to balance and can be unsafe.
3. Students with high or low blood pressure should avoid this pose without the proper guidance or props.

Chakras
Chakra Three:Solar Plexus, Self-Power, or Manipura (lustrous gem) Chakra. This is the combustion, power, and energy chakra. Its goals are vitality, strength of will, and purpose. Its location is the solar plexus.
Chakra Four:Heart, Love, or Anahata (Unstuck) Chakra. This is the love and equilibrium chakra. Its goals are balance, compassion, and acceptance. Its location is the heart.
Chakra Five:Throat, Visuddha, Vissudha, Vishuddhi, or Vishuddha (purification) Chakra. This is the communications and sympathetic vibrations chakra. Its goals are clear communication, creativity, and resonance. Its location is the throat.



Additional information on this asana can be found in your textbooks

  • In the textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini, this posture can be found in Chapter 9 – Supine and Prone Postures as “Ushtrasana – Camel Pose”. 
    • Watch the Chapter 9 video “Ushtrasana” found in the Web Resources that come with your textbook “Instructing Hatha Yoga – 2nd Edition With Web Resource” by: Diane M. Ambrosini. This video gives you an additional example of how to practice this asana.
  • In the textbook “YOGA Anatomy – Third Edition” by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthew, this posture can be found in Chapter 10 – KNEELING POSES as “USTRASANA – Camel Pose”.

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