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Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
With Dr Kiki Morriss
Camel Pose is a dynamic backbend that opens your chest and increases the mobility of your shoulders. It is an excellent pose to practice after long periods of sitting, and will improve your posture and your sense of wellbeing. Ustrasana opens your heart (anahata) chakra. When this chakra is open you are able to embrace life and love unconditionally, experiencing the power of compassion, forgiveness and gratitude.
Moving into the pose
- Kneel with your feet and knees hip-width apart, and with your thighs perpendicular to the ground.
- Move your hips and thighs forwards.
- Lift and lengthen your torso.
- Gently arch back and reach back to hold your heels. As you do this avoid rotating your body.
- Place your palms on your soles, with your fingers pointing towards your toes.
- Breathe evenly and steadily in the pose.
Focus your gaze
- Your focal point (drishti) is at the tip of your nose or a fixed point above or behind you (depending on where it's comfortable for you to hold your head).
- Alternatively try closing your eyes.
- Extend your back by engaging your erector spinae and quadratus lumborum.
- Tilt your pelvis forwards as your back extends.
Head and neck
- Keep your neck and jaw relaxed as you move your head back.
- Keep the back of your neck long.
- Don't allow your head to drop back.
Shoulders and arms
- Extend your shoulders by using your posterior deltoids.
- Externally rotate your shoulders by engaging your teres minor and infraspinatus muscles.
- Extend your elbows by using your triceps.
- Use your rhomboids to bring your shoulder blades towards the midline, and to open your chest.
- Extend your hips and femurs by engaging your gluteus maximus.
- If your pelvis moves backwards towards your lower legs, engage your quadriceps to shift your pelvis forwards.
- Maintain the angle between your thighs and lower legs.
- Press your shins, knees and feet firmly on the ground.
- Strengthens your back muscles, hamstrings and gluteal muscles.
- Stretches your chest, shoulders, abdomen, hip flexors and quadriceps.
- Improves your posture and opens your chest.
- Increases your confidence and sense of personal power.
- Opens your heart chakra.
Variations & Modifications
- Tuck your toes under to make the pose slightly easier.
- Place a bolster or blankets on a chair. Arch back onto the chair, using the props to support your lumbar spine.
- If you are unable to arch back into the full pose, try keeping your hands on your hips and your thumbs on your sacrum.
- Avoid the pose if you have a neck or back injury or issue.
- Practice with caution if you have a shoulder issue.