Camel (Ustrasana) is a posture I like a lot. The posture itself requires strength, stability and control. However it’s one of those postures that gets queued almost exclusively in the feminine. Some of the most common include open your heart, spread your joy and open yourself to your inner goddess. Instead I like to queue this as a way to strengthen the abs, back and legs and stretch the shoulders and chest. As someone who sits in front of a computer all day, I really like the stretch.
Why this posture is especially good for men.
Stretching and Expanding
Stimulates and Regulates
- Circulatory System
- Balances Metabolism
- Energizes the mind and relieves stress
Start kneeling (place a blanket under your knees if that is more comfortable). Lengthen through the crown of the head and the tail bone in opposite directions.
Engage the abs in and up and place the hands into the small of the back for support. Inhale and lengthen to move the head backwards and the chest up towards the sky. While this does open the chest, I like the extra support for my lower back that comes from slightly squeezing the shoulder blades together. In addition to supporting my back, this is great for opening and loosening the shoulders. If you type all day like I do, or just have burly shoulders (not really me), this can give quite the head-rush as blood vessels open in the shoulder and neck leading to the brain.
Have a block inside each foot and place one hand at a time on the blocks. Again inhale and lengthen the spine while opening the chest to the sky. If it is comfortable, move the hands to the heels or ankles and push the hips forward. Again, the key here is to lengthen through the back and not to compress it by trying to bend all the way back on day one.
Finally, if it’s comfortable, let the head gently roll back fully opening the chest. There aren’t too many opportunities to stretch across the chest and shoulders. Breathing into the belly here helps keep the abs engaged to keep pressure off the lower back.
To come out of the posture, begin by first lengthening through the spine and engaging the abs even more. Next place the palms in the lower back for support and lift through the head to come back up right slowly. The first few times I did this, I came out too quickly and ended up a bit dizzy. If that happens, just sit with it until the dizziness subsides.
Key points when doing camel include lengthening instead of bending in the back (especially the lower back) and lengthen the neck to not pinch it by letting it flop when fully opening the chest.
One other important note on this posture, don’t rush it. We sit so much all the time; in front of computers, video games, televisions, etc. that the lower back eventually becomes a solid mass and loses its flexibility. Camel is a great posture for countering that, but if done too deeply too quickly, it can lead to injury. Much like the camel crossing the dessert, slow and steady with this posture.