Camel pose is a powerful backbend that can be found in many yoga sequences. It is an excellent posture to open up the chest and shoulders, while also strengthening your core and improving spinal flexibility. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of camel pose and how to practice it safely and effectively.
What is camel pose?
Camel pose, or Ustrasana in Sanskrit, is a heart opening backbend practiced in many styles of yoga. In this posture, the practitioner kneels on the floor with both knees hip-width apart and the hips positioned directly over the heels. The hands are placed on the sacrum (the lower back) and from there, the spine is arched backward and the head tilted back. It can be a challenging posture, but with consistent practice it can lead to an increased range of motion in the spine and greater flexibility in the chest and shoulders.
Importance of camel pose
The importance of camel pose lies in its ability to open up the chest and shoulders, while also strengthening the core and improving flexibility in the spine. This posture is often used as a transition between seated and standing poses, as it helps to prepare the body for more advanced postures. It can also be used to release tension in the back, neck, and shoulders that are caused by sitting for long periods of time. Practicing camel pose can also help to improve posture and reduce lower back pain.
Benefits of camel pose
The physical benefits of camel pose are numerous. Practicing this pose regularly can help to improve spinal flexibility, reduce back pain, and increase core strength. It can also increase range of motion in the shoulders and chest, leading to more efficient movement in those areas. Other physical benefits include improved posture and greater balance. Additionally, because of the level of intensity involved in the pose, it can help to improve focus and concentration.
In addition to the physical benefits, camel pose can also offer mental and emotional benefits. This posture can help to foster greater self-awareness and body confidence as it requires practitioners to push themselves out of their comfort zone. As a result, it helps to build mental strength and encourages a more positive outlook on life. Practicing camel pose can also help to reduce stress levels and create a sense of calm.
How to do camel pose
Before attempting camel pose, it is important to warm up the body with some preparatory poses. This will help to prepare the spine and shoulders for the intensity of the posture. Some recommended poses include Cat-Cow, Thread the Needle, Child’s Pose, and Downward Facing Dog. It is also beneficial to practice Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal lock ) to engage the core and build strength.
Step-by-step guide on performing camel pose
Begin in a kneeling position with your knees hip-width apart and the tops of your feet resting on the floor.
Place your hands on your sacrum (lower back) and press into your palms to arch the spine backwards, tilting the head back.
Engage U ddiyana Bandha by drawing your navel in towards your spine and lifting your chest.
Reach back with both hands, one at a time, to grasp the outside of each heel.
Slowly begin to arch even further back into the posture, keeping your core engaged and breath steady.
Hold for 5-10 breaths before slowly releasing out of the posture.
Safety tips for practicing camel pose
Safety should always be the top priority when practicing any yoga posture, including camel pose. It is important to make sure that proper alignment is maintained and that you only go as far as your body will allow. Here are some safety tips for practicing camel pose:
Start slowly: Do not attempt to force yourself into this posture, it takes time and consistent practice to build up the strength and flexibility needed.
Keep your core engaged: Engage Uddiyana Bandha by drawing the navel in towards the spine and lifting the chest. This will help to protect your lower back and prevent any injury.
Stay present: Remain focused on your breath and take it slow, listening to your body every step of the way. If at any point you feel discomfort or strain, come out of the posture and take a break.
Variations of camel pose
One-handed camel pose
One-handed camel pose is a variation of the classic camel pose that can be used to increase intensity and challenge your balance and focus. To perform this posture, start by coming into the traditional camel pose with both hands on your sacrum (lower back). Then, reach one hand back to grasp the outside of the corresponding heel and slowly begin to arch even further back into the posture. Make sure to keep your core engaged and breath steady as you hold the pose for 5-10 breaths.
Lunge pose with backbend
Lunge Pose with Backbend is a variation of the traditional lunge pose that can help to increase flexibility in the spine and core while also challenging balance and stability. To perform this posture, begin in a low lunge position with your knees bent and your back foot elevated onto a yoga block or cushion. Slowly extend your arms overhead and arch your upper back, lifting your chest towards the sky. Hold for 5-10 breaths before slowly releasing out of the posture.
Ardha Ustrasana (Half Camel Pose)
Ardha Ustrasana (Half Camel Pose) is an intermediate-level backbend yoga posture that can help to strengthen and open the chest, shoulders and abdomen. This posture is also beneficial for stimulating energy in the body and increasing blood circulation. It requires a certain level of flexibility and strength, so it is important to practice this pose with caution.
Modifications for beginners
If you are a beginner to camel pose or are just starting off with your yoga practice, it can be beneficial to use props such as blocks. Blocks can help to modify the posture and make it more accessible for those who may not have the flexibility or strength in their spine yet. To use blocks in camel pose, place two blocks on either side of your heels and reach back with both hands to grasp the blocks. This will help to decrease the intensity of the posture and make it easier to maintain proper alignment.
Using a wall
Using a wall is an effective way to help you modify camel pose if you’re just starting out. To do this, stand about an arm’s length away from the wall with your feet hip-width apart and arms in a goal post position, palms facing down. Place your hands onto the wall at shoulder height and gently lean back against it, arching your spine as much as you can comfortably. Hold for 5-10 breaths before coming back to standing.
Using a strap
Using a strap is an effective way to modify camel pose for beginners. To do this, place a yoga strap around the soles of your feet and hold onto it with your hands. This will help to decrease the intensity of the posture while still allowing you to reap the benefits. Make sure to keep your hips level and your shoulders relaxed: Keep your hips level throughout the posture by engaging your core muscles and making sure that one hip doesn’t dip lower than the other. To help relax your shoulders, focus on keeping them down away from your ears as you arch back into the posture.
Precautions and Contraindications
Camel pose can be a beneficial posture when practiced with caution and awareness. It is important to note that this posture should not be attempted if you have any existing injuries or chronic pain in the lower back, neck, or shoulders. If you do have an underlying injury, it is recommended to practice this pose with the help of a qualified instructor who can provide modifications and guidance.
Pregnancy and menstruation
Camel pose is generally not recommended during pregnancy or menstruation as it can be physically strenuous. During pregnancy, this posture can place additional strain on the lower back and abdomen which can be harmful to both mother and baby. During menstruation, this posture may cause increased discomfort due to the intensity of the posture. If you are pregnant or menstruating, it is best to avoid this posture or practice with gentle modifications.
Back problems can be a major obstacle when practicing camel pose. It is important to note that this posture should not be attempted if you have any existing injuries or chronic pain in the lower back, neck, or shoulders. If you have an underlying back problem, it is recommended to practice this pose with the help of a qualified instructor who can provide modifications and guidance.
Ardha Ustrasana (Half Camel Pose) is an intermediate-level backbend yoga posture that can help to strengthen and open the chest, shoulders and abdomen. This pose is beneficial for stimulating energy in the body as well as increasing blood circulation. Practicing this posture with caution can bring a number of benefits including increased flexibility in the spine, improved digestion, and increased energy.