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Camel pose is a moderately challenging but still accessible yoga pose that provides a great remedy for modern life. So many of us hunch over screens all day, leading to poor posture and back and neck pain. Camel pose can help you counteract this.
Camel pose is one of yoga’s back bending poses that opens the chest and stretches the front of the body. It is called ustrasana (ustra means camel in Sanskrit).
It is considered an intermediate pose, but variations make it easier to do if you have limitations. Even with modifications, this pose provides important benefits.
This is a more accessible pose than some of the more difficult back-bend asanas, like full wheel. Even if you need to modify camel pose as you work up to the full position, you’ll benefit from the stretch and the opening nature of this pose.
Camel pose provides a comprehensive stretch of the front of the body. It hits the quadriceps, hip flexors, abdominal muscles, and chest. Except for the quads, many people overlook stretching these areas of the body and they can become tight.
Follow this guide to release tight quads.
Many people sit all day and spend a lot of time bending over a screen of some type. This position causes the chest to cave inward, which can restrict breathing. Camel pose does the opposite, opening the chest and freeing up the respiratory system.
The standard hunched pose so many of us are guilty of falling into also curves the spine forward. The spine can become stiff. Camel pose curves the spine in the opposite direction, improving its mobility and flexibility.
All of the above are related to posture. Most people are guilty of poor posture, again, largely because of how we sit with screens all day. The backward bend and chest- and shoulder-opening position of camel pose helps improve posture. It makes you more aware of hunched posture and improves spine mobility so you can fix it.
Try these other yoga poses that will improve your posture.
Poor posture leads to back and neck pain. Camel pose can relieve some of that pain by releasing the tension in the spine. This also has repercussions for mental health, helping you feel more relaxed and less tense. It’s a great pose for the end of a long workday.
The heart chakra is believed to be the center of love, compassion, and emotional balance in the body's energy system, and certain yoga poses, including Camel Pose, are thought to help activate and balance this energy center. Backbends like Camel Pose often open up the chest, which can create a sense of vulnerability and possibly encourage emotional release and healing.
When performed correctly, camel pose engages back muscles, quadriceps, glutes, abdominal muscles, shoulder muscles, chest muscles, and hip flexors. Practicing with proper alignment and technique not only works these muscles but also helps prevent injury.
Camel pose looks deceptively simple, but take the time to learn how to do it correctly for the most benefits and to avoid hurting your back or neck.
Start on your knees on a mat with your body upright and your hips directly over your knees. Your knees should be hip-width apart. Use extra cushioning under your knees if necessary.
Let your shoulders roll back as you begin to open your chest. Stretch your spine upward. Place your hands on your waist or hips (thumbs to the back and fingers to the front) to guide the opening and upward stretches.
Focus on keeping your thighs upright. Do not let them fall backward with your spine as you do the next steps.
Reach your hands back and grab the heels of your feet.
Holding onto your feet, let your spine bend back. Let your head follow, opening the neck and throat.
Stay in camel pose for a few breaths to begin. As you progress, you can hold it for longer. To release the pose, tuck your chin back in, move your hands back to your hips, and bring your body back to an upright position with a neutral spine.
A common mistake made in camel pose is letting the thighs roll back with the spine. They should remain fully upright for correct form. To check your own form, start the pose with your knees and thighs pressed against a wall. As you bend back into camel pose, your thighs, and even the fronts of your hips, should stay against the wall.
Lift and lengthen through your upper body to avoid dumping the bend into your lower back. Go easy into the pose allowing for length through your neck and lower back.
Another mistake is failing to warm up the spine before doing this challenging pose. Unless you have developed a lot of flexibility, start with a few gentle chest openers, like sphinx, cobra, or bridge pose, before moving into full camel pose.
Most people can do camel pose and benefit from it, but some people need modifications. Try a variation or modification if you can’t do the full back bend or if you have safety concerns.
Not everyone can do the full bend required to reach their heels. If you can’t, use blocks. Place them next to your feet and reach back to rest your hands on the tops of the blocks for a gentler bend.
If you still can’t reach the tops of the blocks, place your hands on your hips as you arch the back. Hold this pose to get a good stretch and work up to using blocks and then your feet. Another easier variation is to do the pose while seated in a chair. The chair provides support and prevents you from going too far back too soon.
If you have neck pain, don’t let your head bend back with your spine. Keep your chin tucked under instead. If you have knee pain, use a towel under them for additional cushioning. This will force you to reach back farther, so use blocks if necessary.
Modifications can also make camel pose more challenging. Open the chest even more by grasping the opposite feet. Try progressing from camel to little thunderbolt pose.
To do little thunderbolt, continue bending the spine while lowering your head toward the floor. This is very challenging and requires significant flexibility.
Camel pose is safe for most people, especially with any needed modifications. There are some contraindications for this asana. For instance, if you have had a back injury or surgery recently, don’t attempt camel pose. Talk to your doctor about safe stretches. A gentler backbend like sphinx or cobra poses may be more appropriate.
Camel pose is one of the best yoga asanas for counteracting the sedentary postures of modern life. Add it to your routine or use it at the end of the day to relieve tension and pain and as a remedy for a hunched posture.
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