Ustrasana - The Camel Pose

At a Glance

In this posture, the arch of the body and the lifting of the chest can be likened to a camel's hump. The deep back bend develops out of a kneeling position with the hands connected to the soles of the feet, which brings gravity and muscular strength play together beautifully to stretch the entire front of the body. The pose is a powerful energizer for the entire system, stimulating enthusiasm, optimism and joy. It also strengthens the back, stretches the hip flexors, and activates the spinal nerves. The practice is best approached gradually with both palms supporting the kidney area to maintain length in the lumbar and to extend out through the thoracic spine.

POSE TYPE
Kneeling pose

POSE CATEGORY
Back bending

ORIGIN
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya

SANSKRIT
Ustrasana
उष्ट्रासन

PRONUNCIATION
ush-trA-sa-na

TRANSLATION
Camel (Ustra)
Pose (Asana)

Performance

STARTING
Stand on the knees, hip distance apart, with the top of the feet flat on the ground, toes pointing backward. The hands are supported on the kidneys.

ENTERING
Open the chest, and slowly bend backward by carefully arching with a long spine. Keep the thighs perpendicular to the ground, and place the palms on the soles of the feet.
Lift the sternum, broaden the chest, lengthen the tailbone towards the floor.
The head is in continuation of the spine.

RELEASING
On an inhale, bring both hands back onto the kidneys, engage the core muscles, and lift the torso into a vertical position. Care should be taken to move the body symmetrically.

VARIATION
The asana may be practiced with the toes tucked under, to decrease the backbend.

Effects

PHYSIOLOGICAL
- Removes laziness, indifference and melancholy.
- Encourages enthusiasm, optimism and joy.
- Aids fatigue and anxiety.

ENERGETIC
Activates the Navel Chakra.

PSYCHOLOGICAL
- Stretches the entire front of the body: ankles, thighs and groins, abdomen, chest, and throat.
- Lengthens the deep hip flexors (psoas).
- Loosens up the vertebrae and stimulates the spinal nerves.
- Stimulates the organs of the abdomen and neck.
- Regulates the thyroid gland.
- Strengthens back muscles.
- Improves posture.

Contra-Indications

- High or low blood pressure
- Migraine
- Insomnia
- Serious low back or neck injury
- Enlarged thyroid
- Stomach ulcer and hernia
- Enlargement of thyroid gland and hyperthyroidism
- Pregnancy: avoid practice after first trimester

"Lie on the ground face downwards, turn up the legs and place them towards the back; catch the legs with the hands, contract forcibly the mouth and the abdomen. This is called the Camel-posture."
- Gheranda Samhita (transl. Chandra Vasu).

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