• Weekly Pose Tutorial: Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

    Ustrasana or Camel Pose is a nice easy backbend from the Ashtanga Yoga Second Series. This is a very therapeutic backbend that can help you create space between the vertebra, building strength and flexibility in the spine. When in this pose, you must try to find the balance between openness and steadiness.

    Let’s take a look at how to do this pose with a healthy technique.

    Come to your knees with your knee joints at 90-degree angles. Your feet are pointed behind you, and your thighs are hip-width apart.

    Inwardly rotate your thighs while pressing your knees into the ground.

    Lift up through your pelvic floor and tighten your core.

    Draw your energy up through the centerline and lift your spine out of your pelvis, creating space in your back.

    Now take your hands on your iliac crests on the front of your pelvis.

    Send your hips forward. Gently lift your chest and roll your shoulders down your back to prepare for the pose.

    Now move your hands to the back of your hips and place your thumbs on your sacrum.

    Squeeze your elbows together and inhale.

    Press your hips forward with your hands and let your head fall back.

    Try to keep your glutes relaxed and your thighs moving forward. If you feel any pinching in your spine, come out of the pose.

    From here, you are ready to move deeper into the backbend for the full expression of the pose.

    First, inhale and lift through the spine even more to create the space you need for the pose.

    Exhale and dangle your arms back behind you. Let them hang loosely at first.

    Now inhale, lift your spine further out of the pelvis and find your feet with your hands.

    Let your cervical spine extend backward. Gaze at the tip of your nose. Keep your core strong, and be careful not to stick your belly out.

    When you’re ready to come out of Ustrasana, don’t collapse. Instead, use your strength to press into your knees and lift yourself back up. Follow this posture with child’s pose.

    Watch Kino’s tutorial below for a better understanding of the pose.

    By Omstars

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  • Ustrasana: the subtlety of heart-opening

    Not every yoga pose needs to bring you to edge of limits. Some poses lay the technical and anatomical foundation for deeper practice. It’s crucial that you apply healthy alignment principles in the foundational poses if you seek to maintain your practice over the course of your lifetime. If you jump in with all heart and zeal but forget to use wisdom and intelligence, chances are you’ll push too hard and miss out on the subtlety of your yoga practice.

    Backbending is a both challenging emotionally and physically. As such, it truly demands that you learn optimal technique from the beginning. If you try and force your backbends not only will you prevent your spine from opening but you may experience an entirely preventable injury. The beauty of backbends is that they energize the small micro-muscles of the back and stimulate the nervous system. Not to mention that in a healthy backend every single muscle of the entire body is involved.

    The process of backbending can be thought of as bending over backwards with the entire body. As the muscles of around your spine lift and create space around the vertebrae, the front body lengthen, the legs engage, the pelvic floor firms, and the shoulders and chest open. On a more internal level, the digestive system is cleansed, the cardio-vascular is stimulated and the nervous system is enervated. Finally on an energetic level, the vital life essence known as Prana is pushed upwards along the central channel, often bringing heat, emotions and rarefied states of consciousness to the surface. You will only progress to the deepest levels of realization within the inner body once the basics of alignment are set up well. Ustrasana, translated into English as the Camel Pose, is the perfect backbend to establish your awareness of anatomical and alignment.

    Starting off in Downward Facing Dog, step or jump your feet forward to a kneeling position. Place the knees hips’ width apart. If your backbend is relatively open leave the toes pointed, but if your backbend is relatively tighter then curl the toes under and use the strength of the feet for more foundation. Internally rotate the hip joints and gently activate the inner thigh muscles to adduct the femurs. A gentle internal rotation allows the sacrum to be free and helps keep the glutes soft. Activate the pelvic floor and send the hips forward, opening the fronts of the hip joints and releasing the psoas and hip flexors. Inhale as you draw the lower abdomen in and lift the rib cage away from the hips to maximize the space between the joints of the spine. Exhale bend each each of the joints of the spine in to extension and facilitate a soft arched back. Nutate the sacrum and distribute the bend equally throughout the entire spine. Place the heels of the hands on the heels of the feet, roll the shoulders forward to internally rotate the humerus and send the sternum up and forward. Allow the trapezius muscles to come up and support the neck pillow as you comfortably drop your head back and gaze towards the nose. Stay for five breaths. With each inhalation create space both physically and emotionally. With each exhalation surrender into that space in every way possible. Come out of the pose in the same methodical way that you entered, reversing the instructions and maintaining space and support for every joint of the body. Move with symmetry and awareness. Never force.

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    By Kino MacGregor

    Watch Omstars Yoga Encyclopedia episode on Ustrasana