Updated: Jan 20, 2022
Uṣṭrāsana means Camel Pose. 🐪 My back does not like Uṣṭrāsana anymore. But I like this variation! It is often called Ardha Uṣṭrāsana (Half Camel). I am renaming it "Peaceful Camel," since it's similar to "Peaceful Warrior" pose! Besides, calling it half camel makes it sound like a consolation prize. It's its own gorgeous āsana!
Uṣṭrāsana works pretty much the whole body, especially the core. The upper back end works postural muscles, so if done mindfully, this pose can help reverse the effects of rounding forward over our work and devices.
Key alignment points to remember:
Draw your navel in and up to support your spine,
find the backbend in the upper back, not the lower back,
Please don't drop your head completely backwards! Very few people have the bone structure to do that safely! (More on this at the end of this post.)
Want to dive a little deeper? Here we go!
Uṣṭrāsana Ush T(l)RAH sana Camel Pose
Pronunciation: Click Here
From downdog, lower knees to floor, then stand on knees
Level 1 Curl toes under – Level 2 tops of feet to floor
Mula bandha/draw navel in and up
Keep sacrum lengthening down from middle spine/neutral lumbar/neutral pelvis
Place one hand on heart and one on sacrum. Gently lengthen sacrum towards floor with hand.
Lift chest towards sky
Take the hand from your sacrum and reach down to same-side foot--place fingertips on heel
Take hand from heart and reach it up towards the sky. I call this Peaceful Camel Pose.
Keep thigh bones forward as far as possible without pain or strain
If comfortable, bring the hand from the sky down to its foot, fingertips touching heel
Open chest, roller upper arm bones out
Soften elbows to prevent hyper-extension
Aesthetically, we want the legs to stay hips’ width apart -- but certain body types will need to go wider, and that is fine
Keep neck long/don’t drop head back
To deepen the pose, look for more opening in chest and upper back/don’t dump into lower back
Gentle gaze at ceiling or slightly forward
Keep jaw, throat and eyes relaxed
To come out of this pose, root through the shins/legs to ground and ease your way forward to stand on your knees. Sit on heels and breathe (vajrasana). This is a neutralizing pose for the lower back.
Another option to come out of the pose, use hands on lower back to help yourself out with support for the back and loving kindness
Practice another camel, and again sit in a neutral pose. After you are finished with your backbends, you can go into a child’s pose or other forward bend.
5 most key alignment points
Lengthen Neck/don’t totally drop the head backwards
Draw the navel in and up to support lower back and modulate the backbend so you don’t hyperextend
Lengthen into the curve, lift the chest (find the mobility in the upper back, not the lower)
Mindful of your shoulder joints as you open chest
Thighs working towards parallel, but fine to go wider if that feels best
Warm-ups/Preps to put in your sequence to get ready for this pose
Cat-cows, chest stretches, shoulder stretches, quadriceps stretches, core work for both abs and back, spinal awareness
Stretches the entire front of the body, the ankles, thighs and groins, abdomen and chest, and throat
Stretches the deep hip flexors (psoas)
Strengthens back & core muscles, improves posture
Stimulates/brings prana to the organs of the abdomen and neck—including reproductive organs
Back Injury, Neck injury
Bone density issues such as osteopenia or osteoporosis
High or low blood pressure (if unmedicated)
Pregnancy—may cause separation of abdominal muscles and put too much pressure on spine
One or two hands on sacrum, gently lift chest and extend head
One hand on heart, one on sacrum
One hand on sacrum, one reaching toward heaven
Hands on blocks instead of heels
Blankets under knees
Adjustments for Teachers
Lengthen neck with hands and forearms
Strap under shoulder blades (less applicable in a vinyasa class, more for clients)
It is really difficult for many people to figure out their neck position in this pose due to the space relations. Keep an eye on your students and tell them to bring their chin towards their chest if they hyperextend
Give a friendly reminder to the group to not push through pain. Every asana should have a sense of ease to it. If it hurts, it's not serving anyone!
Protecting Your Neck
Please don't drop your head completely backwards! Most people do not have the bone structure to do that safely! Here are a couple articles that touch on that.