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Ustrasana

Camel pose or extending backwards

ustrasana4

Ustrasana is a beginner level back extension which is not to be confused with simply bending backwards as the name often implies. The whole idea is to extend and lengthen one's spine upwards so that it can freely flex without creating any compression or discomfort in the spine.

The ease of performing this asana comes with the softening or lengthening of one's front thigh muscles. As you go into the posture, avoid pushing the pelvis forwards. Before attempting this exercise, please read the page on bending backwards.

Instruction

  • Place the feet and knees hip width apart with toes under as in the right image
  • Place the hands on the hips and tuck your tail under as you lengthen up through the torso.
  • Keep your neck soft and your head upright as you begin to extend up and back. But, as you begin to lean back do not let your head fall back.
  • If you are comfortable, reach back and place your hands on your heels and begin to extend in the pose. The ideal hand placement is to have the heels of the hands resting on the heels of the feet and the fingers extended in line with your toes.
  • Only let your head come back as illustrated here when you are completely comfortable.
  • To come out of pose, bring your chin forwards and then the shoulders. Can you come up with both shoulders even instead of lifting one arm and shoulder first?
  • One can either kneel up to repeat the exercise and the most common follow-on is to sit back onto the heels and stretch forwards in child pose to lengthen out the back of the spine.

    preparation

    preparation

Many beginners find this a real challenge, especially if they have tight thighs and it should not be forced.

Important ponts

  • The exercise is easier by having the toes turned under as illustrated in the right image.
  • When one is comfortable performing this exercise with the toes turned under and it's easy enough to reach back and rest the hands on the heels, then returned to an upright position without strain, it can be performed with the toes pointed away and tops and feet flat on the floor as illustrated below.
  • If one is comfortable here, downward pressure on the tops of the feet activate the legs to rotate the hips.
  • The stability of the hands and arms allows one to activate the shoulders to open the chest and actively stretch the spine.
  • The head is only relaxed back when the overall pose is comfortable.
  • On coming out of the pose, lift the head and then let the hips sink back but try to bring both hands off the feet and back onto the hips together to avoid twisting..

The two main limiting factors to performing this pose well are tight front thighs and tight shoulders.

If there is any discomfort in your back; STOP and look for a solution.

A follow up pose is child pose, especially if you back is delicate.

ustrasana

It is important not to strain the neck or extend the chin back

ustrasana5

All sizes can do this

When you find this pose really easy, you can begin working to this variation below

ustrasana_extreme

 

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