Ustrasana, Camel Pose


photo credit: Genevieve Oswald in Ustrasana. Photo by Zoe Zimmerman for Sundara Studios 2013

Autumn is a time of year when colds and illnesses are common. A regular practice of back bending — aside from giving one a new perspective on life and inviting one to face their fears as they lean back into unknown and uncommon posturing — opens up the chest, home to the thymus gland, center of a healthy auto immune system.

People with low back injuries and stiff spines are generally less inclined to practice back bends for fear of injury and prolonged pain. As taking care of oneself is a primary focus when practicing yoga, it is always advised to listen to one’s body and only do that which is within reason for one’s own feeling of comfort. This in mind, Ustrasana (Camel Pose) is a basic-level back bend which has a tendency to feel more advanced as the pull of gravity creates traction, inviting more muscular awareness through its dynamic tension.

Begin kneeling with hands on hips. Create more space in the low back as you inhale and draw your inner thighs toward one another, then back, and widen. This action feels like sticking your butt out. With your next inhale, lift your ribcage and shoulders away from your hips, exhale to draw your shoulders back and inward behind your heart. Slide your head back, lift your chin, and gaze upward, mindful that both the front and back of your neck is equally long. Exhale to draw your tailbone underneath you, pressing your hips forward as you lean back into gravity’s pull. To advance, take hands to heels.

Breath deeply, knowing you are increasing blood flow to all the organs of your chest, bringing more flexibility to your spine, all while enhancing your body’s overall health. Hold for as long as you like.