- Stretches your neck, chest, abdomen, thighs, hip flexors (psoas), groins, and ankles.
- Strengthens your back muscles, gluteal muscles, and arm muscles (triceps).
- Massages and stimulates your organs and chakras of the abdomen.
- Lower back (especially herniation) and neck injury
- Injury or stiffness of the knees
- High or low blood pressure
- Internal organ surgery
- If your knees or ankles have discomfort due to the floor, kneel on a folded blanket.
- If you're not able to touch your feet without causing compression in your lower back, tuck your toes under. With the heels elevated, you may have greater ease in placing the hands on the heels.
- For beginners, keep your hands on the back of the pelvis (not on the heels) and gently open the chest region by slightly arching the upper back. Maintain the light pelvic tilt to support your back as you draw your shoulders against your back ribs.
Ustrasana (oosh-TRAHS-anna)ustra = camel
- Kneeling on the floor and place your knees hip width apart and set your hips over the knees (if your knees or ankles have discomfort due to the floor, kneel on a folded blanket). Ground the pose by slightly pressing the top of your feet into the earth. To better isolate your hip flexor stretch in this pose, lightly turn or rotate your thighs internally.
- Lightly contract your lower abdomen to pelvic tilt your tailbone down, which will draw your hip points slightly up towards your bottom front ribs. Avoid having rigidity in yourbuttocks and outer hips while engaging this pelvic tilt.
- Maintaining a light firmness in your abdomen, place your hands on the back of your pelvis. The base of your palms should go across the tops of your buttocks causing the fingers to point down. Encourage the lower back to lengthen as your tailbone moves further into a pelvic tilt as though it is drawing forward toward the pubis. During this motion, also feel your bottom front ribs gently being contained thus adding to the length through your lower back.
- Proceeding into the back arch, inhale and roll your shoulders back by pressing your shoulder blades back and against your back ribs. Your chest will expand and the heart region will lift. Mindfully, keep the pelvis forward over your knees and slightly lean back against the firmness of the tailbone and shoulder blades. If you feel stiffness in the knees or hips, remain here with hands on the pelvis and your gaze forward.
- Continue, only if you feel comfortable and strong, by slightly twisting to one side to smoothly place one hand on the back of the one heel. Return the spine to center to place the other hand on the other heel. Still keeping the firmness and energy in the abdomen, gently press your thighs forward to perpendicular if the hips have moved back relative to the knees.
- Lightly contain the bottom front ribs and continue to lift your hip points towards those ribs to reduce compression of your lower back. Your hands may be positioned so that your palms are on the heels and the fingers point over the soles of the feet. This will allow your upper arm to more effectively externally rotate and add to the expansion of your shoulders and chest. You can continue the pose with the gaze forward. A more advanced version, you can relax the neck and jaw as you gently float your head back. Relax and soften your throat as much as possible-opening the mouth will reduce muscle tension in the front of the neck.
- Hold the pose with comfort and ease of breath for 20 seconds to a minute.
- To exit, exhale and contract your abdominal muscles. Slowly bring your hands onto the back of your pelvis one at a time. As you inhale, contract your abdominal muscles further to pull the bottom ribs forward causing the trunk to flex forward. Continue to lift your chest over the knees. If your head is back, wait for your chest pass over your knees, and only then let the head flow forward with gravity (this will avoid strain to the neck). Move slowly into Child's Pose and rest for a few breaths taking inhales deep into your back where Ustrasana still echoes.