Well I seem to be all about backbends this week. Last night I went to a Hatha Flow class where we focused on back bending. And we worked on Camel Pose. I have mentioned it here before — Camel is one of those poses that I find extremely challenging. I’m not sure exactly why. I think there are probably a number of reasons. I find it hard on my knees, my neck feels pinched when I let my head drop back and it is intense on my back. But maybe the biggest reason is that it makes me want to scream… ahhhhhhhhh! Not a real appropriate reaction in a yoga class.
It’s time to make peace with Ustrasana. Note my Camel with a smile in the photo above…
Something interesting about Camel Pose that my instructor pointed out when I was in teacher training, is that Camel is simply Bridge Pose turned upwards. And I love Bridge! So here goes. I plan to take the next week to focus on Camel and I will start here by looking at some of the reasons to practice it.
Benefits of Camel Pose
- Stretches the entire front of the body, including the chest and abdomen.
- Stretches the lower body — ankles, thighs, quadriceps and hip flexors..
- Strengthens the back.
- Improves posture.
- May help with respiratory issues, fatigue, menstrual cramps, diabetes and anxiety.
- Helps with digestion.
- Opens the Heart Chakra.
- Works to heal the thyroid gland and stimulates the Throat Chakra.
Kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width apart and have your thighs perpendicular to the ground.
Place your hands on the back of your pelvis, squeezing your elbows and shoulder blades together. Press your hips slightly forward.
Inhale and lift your ribs and chest while pressing your pelvis forward.
Stay in this position or if you feel ready, reach one hand towards your heel then the other hand towards the other heel.
Extend through the crown and gently drop your head back. Continue to maintain length in your neck even as it relaxes back.
Take a couple of deep breaths in this pose. To exit, bring your hands to the base of your pelvis. Inhale and slowly lift your heads and torso. Rest in Child’s Pose for a few breaths.
Tips for a Happier Camel
Warm up first with gentler backbends such as Sphinx and Cobra. It is best to save Camel for later on in your practice after you have already worked the back and shoulders a bit.
I like to have lots of padding under my knees during this pose. I will often use a folded towel or roll up the front of my mat for extra cushioning.
Go into the pose mindfully. Start with the hands pressed at the lower back. If you want to deeper but are not ready to reach your hands to your feet, try blocks positioned just outside each heel. Or (my current version of the pose) turn your toes under and elevate your heels.
If you find that dropping your head back causes a lost of pinching or straining around your neck, keep your chin tucked towards your chest.
Have a look at the video below for an explanation of Camel Pose and demonstration using yoga blocks.