Buddha said “It is better to travel well than to arrive”. It’s about the journey and not the destination. Ustrasana, or Camel Pose, is one of those poses I like to refer to as a “journey pose”. It doesn’t happen, for most of us, on the first day on the mat. It could take years to truly find that moment of “ah, I get it now”. There will be “bumps” (pun intended) along the way, but this beautiful heart- chest- shoulder-psoas opening pose is accessible to you if you have a little patience and determination.
For years I have had a love/hate/love/hate/love relationship with Ustrasana. In my early years of the “26 & 2” posture practice, where the same asana sequence is practiced every class, I would absolutely dread Ustrasana. My mind would start to move forward instead of staying present, my heart rate would go up a little, and I would think I was going to vomit. I wish I was joking. The intense heat does NOT help in this instance. One day, after years, the stars aligned with my body and I had this intense “aaaahhhhh” feeling within the pose. I was open. I could breathe through the pose. My hands were firmly around my heels. I felt amazing. I felt vulnerable, and I was ok with being vulnerable. Then, yes, I cried.
That’s really the biggest struggle of Ustrasana. Are you ok with being vulnerable? Can you breathe through an uncomfortable situation? Can you ride the waves of emotion that often come up when you expose your true self? Mmmmmmm, delicious discomfort!
We don’t move around in the world with our chest lifted to the sky in an act of surrender. Quite the opposite. As a society we tend to be “en garde”, chest caved in, phones as our shield. So let’s walk through how to begin your own relationship with Camel Pose and open your heart to infinite possibilities. Remember, an open heart leads to an open mind… something we all need a little more of in our lives these days.
- Knees slightly wider than hips width apart, tall spine, blocks next to feet.
- Inhale, press THROUGH the blocks to lift the chest up to the sky, neck stays long.
- With every inhale, lengthen through spine.
- Exhale, press through the hands.
- Knees slightly wider than hips, come up on the knees, activate quads, inner thighs, abdomen. (Making a “shush sound” will auto activate the entire front side!)
- “Robot arms”, elbows move back in space and TOWARDS each other to open the shoulders and chest, hands to hips, long neck, backbend is in the LIFT of the chest, and not the low back.
- Inhale to lengthen through the whole front side body.
- Exhale, moving the hips forward in space as you lift the chest.
- Stay one breath longer than you want to to build your calm state of mind.
- Same as above, with blocks set next to the feet, starting with the longest direction.
- Keeping your “robot arms”, begin to lengthen the arms back, fingers forward.
- Inhale, lengthen. Exhale, press through the block, hips moving forward, chest lifting. (Glutes stay soft so as to not compress the low back.)
- Breathe! Let the sensations flow through you and find calm. When your brain says “move”, can you stay one breath longer?
- You’ve followed the map, and made the journey to your ankles. You know how to get there, it just takes time and repetition.
- Keep pressing into the ankles, hips forward, chest lifting, as if I had a strap around your ribs and was lifting you up. (Protect your low back with a soft backside.)
- With every inhale lengthen through the whole “front side body”, and every exhale press.
- Enjoy the sensations that come, including the cycle of energy through the front body from the ankles around to the hands.
- Whichever one you choose, a few breaths in “constructive rest” are essential.
- You may feel a strong desire to bend forward into an embryo or child’s pose, but the best thing to do for yourself is to sit with a neutral spine and just breathe.
- While you’re there, say something nice to yourself.
Please remember, the pose, or the destination, is not the goal. The goal is what you learn about yourself along the way, the connection of your body to your mind, the acceptance that each day your body may be different, and anything that presents itself in that moment is ok. That’s the journey… the journey to your true self through the practice of yoga.
WHAT YOU PRACTICE GROWS STRONGER
It is an honor to be a part of your journey, and I am blessed to be a part of yours. I hope our paths meet again soon. Until then, be well.
From my heart, Anna