Breaking Down the Pose – Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

Have you ever been telling your friend about a yoga class you took and been annoyed when their response was “I just don’t think yoga is a real workout”. Well so have we, and we 100% attribute it to people not fully understanding the small intricate movements that force them to work a lot harder in each pose.

Our pose breakdown series shows a visual of the big cues you should be focusing on, as well as highlighting the benefits and risks of the featured poses. Feel free to share with your skeptical friends to help them advance their own practices.

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Ustrasana, also known as camel pose  is a big heart opener with many benefits. Unfortunately camel pose is often received with groans and sighs from students when directed into it by the instructor. We’re not sure why camel pose has such a bad rep amongst practitioners, but, my best guess is this pose sometimes causes nausea or dizziness when coming out of it.  However, these symptoms can be minimized with a few proper alignment tips.

The foundation of this pose is in the tops of the feet, ankles, shins and knees. The shins and knees should be hip width apart and the thighs perpendicular to the floor.  The tendency is to crunch into the lower back, but this can be avoided by spinning the inner thighs back and pressing the sacrum/tailbone firmly into the body.

Quick tip –  If you are clenching your butt, you’re probably crunching into your lower back

The lower body is rooted and the upper body is lifting from the back ribs. Make sure you arch evenly through the torso (no hinging at the front ribs). Extend your sternum away from the navel and broaden through the shoulder blades.  Proper head and neck alignment is integral to this pose. When there is enough curve in the thoracic spine then you can drop your head back with no compression in the neck. Often the nausea and dizziness is caused from dipping your head back before this curve is established.

Common mistakes we see:

1. Chest is collapsed and shoulders are lifted up around the ears

2. Hinging at the knees and/or hips are not above the knees

3. Lower back is arched

Next time you are directed into this yoga pose, just know there are plenty of modifications you can try. You can tuck your toes under so your heels are higher. You can also put your hands on your buttocks to extend the back. If this pose ALWAYS makes you dizzy, don’t feel compelled to drop your head back, you can experience all the benefits of this heart opener without taking it to it’s fullest expression.

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