Level 2: Intermediate
From ‘Ustra’ meaning camel, and ‘asana’ meaning pose, camel is an intense posture with many benefits as listed below. Before you attempt it, bear in mind that the posture can result in a very deep backbend, and if you are a beginner I would not recommend experiencing the fuller expressions of the pose without a yoga teacher present. Start with the softer elements, and you will still feel the benefits, but with less risk of injuries.
Personally I have a love-hate relationship with camel; I love the powerful stretch and strengthening, but this pose has a way of releasing any pent-up emotion within me, which can be very disconcerting and overwhelming! I have learned to try and relax and breathe through it, and I usually feel much better afterwards, so I keep it a part of my practice. Take care, and go steady…
- Improves posture and extension of the spine
- Stretches and opens the front body- relieves tension in the thighs, hips, abdomen, ribs, chest, shoulders, and throat
- Heart-opener. Can be emotionally cathartic.
- Stimulates the thyroid/parathyroid glands by promoting the regional circulation and lymphatics
- Strengthens the thighs and back
- Stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) and can aid stress-relief
Contraindications/Cautions (consult your physician):
- Injuries/inflammation of the back muscles, shoulders, spine, neck, ribs, hips, knees (this posture is full on for multiple body parts- so if you are at all injured it is best to wait until you are healed).
- High/low blood pressure
- Glaucoma/detached retinas
- Pregnancy- depends on any concurrent issues you may be experiencing. Consult your midwife and an experienced pre-natal yoga teacher.
I REPEAT: TAKE CARE WITH THIS ONE IF YOU ARE NOT EXPERIENCED! Seek the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher to help you to find the correct alignment for your body. DO NOT DO THIS COLD- warm up first.
- Start seated with the feet and lower legs underneath you (Vajrasana).
- Place the hands behind you under the shoulders on the floor (fingers away or towards you, depending on what is comfortable).
- Inhale and engage the pelvic floor and abdominal and thigh muscles, lift the hips up off the legs in a forward manner to create the backbend. Keep the neck in a neutral position with the gaze looking upwards.
- Exhale and try and soften the face and release tension, whilst maintaining stability.
- As you inhale, expand into the chest, and lift the front body up and slightly forwards from the hips, and maintain this position.
- As you exhale, soften and deepen the back bend, only if accessible.
- Breathe for 30-60 seconds, or come down sooner if required, but try and relax into the posture where possible.
- When you are ready to come down take an inhalation, and then whilst exhaling keep the pelvic floor and abdominals engaged and release the backbend by lowering the hips back down to on top of the legs.
- Come back to Vajrasana and then widen the knees with the toes touching and ease back to Child’s Pose as a counter pose and relax.
- Come to kneeling at the front of your mat. The tops of the feet can be flat against the mat, or you can have the toes tucked (easier).
- Inhale, expand into the chest, and lift the front body upwards, finding length in the spine. The hands may be gently placed on the lower back, on the hips, behind your shoulders in prayer. Beginners have the hands at the sacrum with the fingertips pointing down.
- Exhale and ease into the back bend by activating the thighs, buttocks, abdomen. Keep the shoulders broad and the neck in a neutral position, the bend should come gently from lifting the thoracic spine up and back, not by crunching the lumbar spine. Only go as far as is comfortable for you, it may be that the hands stay at the lower back/hips, otherwise reach them down towards the feet if you are able to and feel no discomfort in the back or neck. If the hands are on the feet they can be on the heels if the toes are tucked (slightly easier), or with palms on the soles of the feet if you have the mobility to do so. Only allow the head to drop behind you if you have absolutely no neck issues.
- When you have reached your full expression of the posture (be kind to yourselves) breath here for a few rounds. Try and expand into the chest and experience an upward lift into the chest and thighs on your inhalations, and soften and if possible relax deeper or maintain your current position on your exhalations.
- When you are ready to come up, care and control are very important. Take a big inhalation to engage the muscles in the legs, gluteals, and abdomen, and begin to allow the torso to move upwards and forwards to an upright position. The neck and the head are the last things to return to upright, take care not to jerk the head forwards. Exhale and release the posture.
- Take Child’s Pose as a counter posture and relax.
- Include Camel into a longer practice in order to warm up. Either incorporate it into a total body practice, or do some prep poses like Bridge, Cobra, Extended Puppy, or Locust etc
- This can be very powerful emotionally, so if you feel overwhelmed in the posture just keep breathing deep, and steady, breaths, and ease off if you need to.