Ustrasana: Camel Pose

Ustrasana

A powerful way to boost your energy and your mood, ustrasana (oosh-TRAHS-anna) offers a long list of benefits for both the physical and subtle bodies. Thanks to its many variations and modifications, there are plenty of ways for practitioners of all levels to appreciate the physical and chakra-opening effects of camel pose.  

Philosophy + Origin

Although the name of this pose is camel because the shape resembles the hump on a camel’s back, there are other ways to consider the name when approaching the posture. Camels are known for their slow, steady, almost methodical way of moving. Rather than trying to race into the posture, being slow and methodical will help you find its benefits without risking discomfort or strain. In the same way, camels use their humps as food reserves, like well-packed bags ready to be used when needed. This type of physical preparation, a part of the camel’s natural adaptation for survival, is essential for this pose as well. Take your time to gather and practice the skills and knowledge necessary to take a back bending journey to ensure that you enter and exit the posture with ease and poise.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS

  • Keep your toes tucked rather than placing the tops of your feet flat on the floor.
  • Place a folded blanket under your knees for extra padding.
  • Keep your hands on your lower back and pelvis rather than reaching back for your heels.
  • Place the crown of your head against a wall as you extend back rather than letting the head hang down.

STEP-BY-STEP

  1. Kneel on your mat with your knees inner hip-width apart.
  2. Either place the tops of your feet on the ground or tuck your toes under.
  3. Without moving your knees, squeeze your inner thighs toward each other. You might imagine the inseam of your pants moving back behind you.
  4. Place your hands on your low back, fingertips pointing down. Draw your elbows behind you.
  5. Lift your chest up to the ceiling. As you continue lifting, your torso may begin to move back in space.
  6. Keep your neck long rather than dropping your head back.
  7. Option to reach one hand, then the other, back toward your heels.
  8. Stay for 3-5 breaths (your breath may be more shallow than usual).
  9. Gently release to neutral, then take a seat on your heels or on the ground.

PREPARATORY POSES

SEQUENTIAL POSES

  • Reclined hero pose | Supta virasana
  • Upward-facing dog | Urdhva mukha svanasana
  • Floor bow | Dhanurasana

COUNTER POSES

  • Staff pose | Dandasana
  • Childs pose | Balasana

SANSKRIT

  • Ustra = camel
  • Asana = pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS

  • Stretches your chest, abdomen, thighs, and hip flexors
  • Strengthens your back, and glutes
  • Improves overall posture

ENERGETIC BENEFITS

  • Stimulates energetic centers in the body, primarily the chakras located in the navel, heart, and throat

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Ananda Balasana: Happy Baby Pose

Ananda balasana (ah-NAHN-duh bah-LAHS-ah-nah) stretches the inner groin, hamstrings, and lower back. Invite the attitude of a joyful baby with this pose!

Philosophy and Origin:

Dasharatha, the King of Ayodhya, was a famous warrior and a protector of dharma (life purpose). He had three wives and no children. He longed for an heir, and Mother Earth was seeking a protector to save her bounty from unscrupulous and devious desires. Tradition teaches that as the wick of dharma burns low, Vishnu the preserver uses birth to set things right again. Mother Earth’s call meant that Vishnu would return.

After performing a sacrifice that yielded a golden milk pudding, the king was instructed to share this bounty with his wives with the promise of fertility and children. Each of his wives became pregnant and would give birth to all of his children. It is often thought that the divine is born into each person on a regular basis and unexpectedly, and we can understand this story as an allegory of how we treat our minds and bodies: avatars and other deities represent potentials waiting to be realized.

Sanskrit:

  • Ananda: blissful, pure bliss
  • Bala: baby
  • Asana: pose

Physical Benefits:

  • Opens and stretches the hips.
  • Stretches the inner groins and hamstrings.
  • Lengthens the spine.

Preparatory Poses:

Sequential Poses:

  • Cow face pose | Gomukhasana
  • Reclined twist

Counter Poses:

Adjustments/Modifications:

  • Hold your ankles or shins.
  • Place a blanket under your neck.
  • Hold each foot with a yoga strap looped around the middle arch of each foot.

Step-By-Step:

  1. Start on your back with your knees drawn in toward your chest.
  2. Grab hold of the pinky toe sides of your feet, with your elbows on the inside of your knees.
  3. Draw your shoulders toward the ground, tone your arms, and flex your feet as you pull down on your feet.
  4. Draw your knees wide and toward your armpits and try to stack ankles above knees.
  5. Lengthen your lower back down to the ground.
  6. Stay here for up to one minute, and then release and draw your knees into your chest.

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