Ustra – Camel, Asana – Posture
The name of “camel pose” comes from the way a camel bend his knees.
This asana is intermediate level and backbend. If you are practicing Ashtanga Yoga it comes from the secondary series and help to prepare for Laghu Vajrasana and Kapotasana.
The preparation for Ustrasana come from Trianga Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana versus Krounchasana. There are also others asanas who help to prepare such as all opening of the shoulders, however these two mentioned above are helping.
WhyTrianga Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana versus Krounchasana are helping to Ustrasana?
That is where we can salute the work of Krishnamacharya when he designed the sequence of the Vinyasa krama.
Internal rotation of the femur bones
One of the first thing to do before folding backward is to internally rotate the tights. Knees should not be open on the outside.
Hence, when we do Trianga Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana, one of the major thing happening during that asana is the internal rotation of the tights while folding forward. If you do not internally rotate them then you won’t have any balance in your posture.
As well the top of foot of the bending leg has to press against the floor.
Both knees squeezing together.
Same logic while doing Krounchasana.
For all backbends internal rotation of the femur bones has to happen such as Setu bandhasana, Chakrasana, Urhva Mukha Svanasana, Purvotanasana.
As Ustrasana is a backbend, often it is taught as being only chest extension. While the base of it which comes from the tights is very important. Not only it is a backbend but also it is opening the hips.
However there are things to do before folding backward:
- Knees hips width apart, top of the foot on the mat.
- You can place the hand on your hips, your lower back or in Namaste in front of the chest.
- In order to keep the internal rotation of the femur bone, you can place a brick between the legs, just below the pubis.
- If you feel more confortable tuck your toes on the mat (not mandatory at all).
- Anterior tilt of the pelvis, glide the tale bone forward, navel stretching toward the neck.
- Gluteus will be active on their own, do not squeeze it, just follow the movement with a nice breathing.
Once everything has been settle down, then only you can start folding backward.
In order to have the shoulder open and a good external rotation of the humerus bone, you should have practice before Prasarita Padotanasana C, Marichyasana C et/ou D, Prasarita Janu Shirshasana, Parighasana etc.
Keep the pelvis aligned with the knees even though you will have to push the pelvis forward.
The more shoulder will open, the more flexibility you will gain in your torso, please avoid to fold only from the lumbar spine.
When you are confortable, bring the hands on the heels, or the calf muscle.
In both cases, hands will be active, you should not rest on them, hand will be pushing against the heels or the calf muscles in order to continue the chest opening. The skin will be stretching as well.
Keep the mouth closed.
Backbend happens on exhalation.
Once you hare in the asana use your breathing to explore your body and your posture; the asana is never finished there is always some part to open, to relaxe.
Dismounting the asana
First of all free your hands, bring them on your lumbar spine or in front of your chest in Namaste. Then bring the torso forward and the head last.
Dismounting the asana is done with one inhalation.
Contre indication: some of them are quite obvious such as sciatica, lumbago, discal hernia, cervical hernia, meniscus pain or if your student is a beginner.
For beginner there are others asana such as Bhujangasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Ardha Chakrasana, Ardhakati Chakrasana, who helped to prepare the body and the mind to deeper backbend. Please note that for all backbend the shoulders have to open as well.
A good practice never hurt
Yoga is not dangerous for anyone.
If we are respecting the practice we start growing into it. If you decide to follow a yoga challenge (#yogachallenge), and try to perform asana without any preparation then of course you will hurt yourself.
But the cause will not be the practice of yoga, the cause will be you and your ego.
Before doing anything new with your body, just practice it and learn how to respect the movement, how to place the breathing. Take time to discover yourself and the asana, it is both connected.