Yoga Posture Guide - The Camel Pose (Ushtra-asana)

The Camel Pose (Ushtra-asana)

Translation: The Sanskrit word ushtra means camel.
Pronunciation: oosh-trah-sa-na
Difficulty: (5)

The Camel Pose (Ushtra-asana) is a powerful posture for stretching the spine, back muscles, shoulders, and arms. It is best to practice it later in your asana routine after most of the muscles are limber and you have worked the back and shoulders.

More Benefits of Ushtrasana (The Camel Pose)

  • This asana gives a good stretch to the back, chest, hips, groins and neck muscles and is helpful for back pains, stooping shoulders and also for correcting postural defects of the spine.
  • It tones the digestive, excretory and reproductive organs.
  • Ushtrasana improves the flexibility of the spine.
  • It expands the chest and improves lung capacity.
Ushtrasana should be avoided by those who suffer from serious neck problems. Also, those suffering from vertigo should perform this asana with caution, without losing balance.

Instructions for The Camel Yoga Pose (Ushtra-asana)

  1. Sit up on the knees with the heels of the feet pressed against the buttocks and the calves of the legs flat on the floor. 
  2. Reaching backward, grasp the left ankle with the left hand and right ankle with the right hand. 
  3. Inhale through the nostrils and lift the buttocks off the legs arching the back and thrusting the abdomen forward and tilt the head as far back as possible. 
  4. Either hold the posture for the duration of the inhale breath or breath gently through the nostrils while holding the posture. 
  5. Exhale and return to the kneeling position. 
A partner can also help you work with your neck and head in this pose. Your partner should stand directly behind you as you perform Camel. Bring your head into a neutral position; that is, align your neck so it's neither inflexion nor extension. Have your partner support the back of your head with one hand, and press his other hand on your upper back, between the shoulder blades. He should pull the base of your skull away from the back of your neck and push your shoulder blades in the opposite direction, down the back. Let your neck grow between these two actions. Then, if you feel comfortable, have your partner carefully remove his hands and, maintaining the length in the back of your neck, drop your head back.

Duration/Repetitions: Hold the posture for the duration of the inhaled breath. If you choose to breathe while holding the ushtraasana, hold it for between thirty seconds to one minute. Repeat the posture three times.

The Camel Pose (Ushtra-asana) Beginner's Tip

Beginners very often aren't able to touch their hands to their feet without straining their back or neck. First, try to turn your toes under and elevate your heels. If this doesn't work, the next thing to do is to rest each hand on a block. Position the blocks just outside each heel, and stand them at their highest height (usually about 9 inches). If you're still having difficulty, get a chair. Kneel for the pose with your back to the chair, with your calves and feet below the seat and the front edge of the seat touching your buttocks. Then lean back and bring your hands to the sides of the seat or high up on the front chair legs.

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