February Pose of the Month

Opening the Heart with Ustrasana/ Camel Pose

“Ustra” = Camel / “Asana” = Pose
Pronounced OOHS-tr-AA-SUN-aa

Ustrasana is one of the deepest backbends in modern asana, and for most people, this challenging pose brings up hesitation, resistance, even fear. In its full expression camel leaves the entire front-line of the body vulnerably exposed, a position that thousands of years of subconscious conditioning has taught us is unsafe. It offers an exploration of the nervous system that can trigger anything from terror to elation, and many would say that this is exactly the point. When we are able to overcome the fear that may arise and stay calm in the face of challenge, we train the psyche to sustain equanimity in the face of difficulty. We learn to move slowly, discern between emotional hesitation and physical limitation and listen to subtle cues of both body and mind.

BENEFITS:
• Improves digestion
• Stretches and opens the front of the body. It also strengthens the back and shoulders
• Relieves the body of lower back ache
• Improves flexibility of the spine and also improves posture
• Helps overcome menstrual discomfort

INSTRUCTIONS:
• Come to the knees with feet and knees hip distance apart. Place hands on hips with thumbs to sacrum; gently traction down. Internally rotate thighs, isometrically drawing them together and slightly back.
• Keeping hips over knees, lengthen the spine and engage the abdominal muscles.
• Maintaining spinal length, inhale and draw the elbows more closely together.
• Keep hands at sacrum, core engaged, heart lifted, chin to chest, and spine long as you exhale and extend into a backbend.
• If heels are accessible, carefully reach back to take hold with fingertips pointing down.
• Gently lift the shoulders to engage the trapezius muscles and protect the cervical spine. Carefully lower the head back and gaze at the tip of the nose.
• Hold for 5-10 full breath cycles.
• To exit: Return hands to sacrum. Keep abdominal muscles engaged. Bring chin back to chest and slowly rise.

Take several minutes in stillness, hips to heels, hands to thighs, to allow for integration.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Back pain or neck pain, high or low bloodpressure. Perform this pose only with the supervision of a qualified teacher.