Ustrasana: Camel Pose
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.
- 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.
- Kneel on your mat with your knees inner hip-width apart.
- Either place the tops of your feet on the ground or tuck your toes under.
- Without moving your knees, squeeze your inner thighs toward each other. You might imagine the inseam of your pants moving back behind you.
- Place your hands on your low back, fingertips pointing down. Draw your elbows behind you.
- Lift your chest up to the ceiling. As you continue lifting, your torso may begin to move back in space.
- Keep your neck long rather than dropping your head back.
- Option to reach one hand, then the other, back toward your heels.
- Stay for 3-5 breaths (your breath may be more shallow than usual).
- Gently release to neutral, then take a seat on your heels or on the ground.
- Ustra = camel
- Asana = pose
- Stretches your chest, abdomen, thighs, and hip flexors
- Strengthens your back, and glutes
- Improves overall posture
- Stimulates energetic centers in the body, primarily the chakras located in the navel, heart, and throat
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Hanumanasana: Front Splits Pose
Hanumanasana (hah-new-mahn-AHS-ah-nah) honors the great leap made by Hanuman, the famous monkey god from the Ramayana, across the ocean from India to the mountains of Sri Lanka. Front splits pose demands flexibility, strength, and stability.
Philosophy + Origin
More than just an incredible leap, Hanuman is remembered, celebrated, and worshiped because of his great devotion and courage. To be devoted, one must be bold enough to stand firmly in their beliefs, selflessly serving others and putting others’ needs above their own.
Because of its physical demands, it’s easy to get caught up in “achieving” the outward appearance of the posture. As such, it’s important to keep your ego in check as you dedicate yourself to the posture. Above all, invite kindness and selflessness to flow freely from the posture. As you practice, ask yourself how you can embody Hanuman’s devotion both in your physical yoga practice and your everyday life.