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Pose spotlight: Ustrasana - Camel Pose


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Ustrasana stretches the hip flexors, thighs, and abdominal muscles.  It improves flexibility in the thoracic spine and opens the upper back, shoulders, and chest.   

Beginning

Come to your knees with your hands by your side.  Keep the hips over the knees.   The knees are hip distance apart. 

 

Props

Place a block outside of each side of your ankles for support and greater stability.    Always use a block if you have lower back problems, a stiff back, or neck problems.  You can also use a blanket under your knees or double up your mat if being on your knees is a problem for you.

Set Up

Glance back at your feet and notice if they are bowed out or sickled.  You want your big toes straight back.  Put your hands at your hips and find a neutral pelvis.  Pubic bone and tailbone drop toward each other equally.  Pretend there is a bowl of water in your pelvis and it is not going to spill forward or backward.  Femur bones are parallel. 

 

Action

Put the palms of your hands flat on your lower back just above your buttocks (make sure you do not arch your lower back). 

Point your elbows into the midline.   

Lift your frontal hip bones back so they stack over the knees.  

Keep your neutral pelvis.

Draw your shoulder blades in and up to increase openness in the chest and to take the backbend into the upper back (thoracic spine).  Keep length in the lumbar spine.

Inhale lift the chest and drop your chin.   Squeeze your elbows together.   

Simultaneously release your hands back towards to your blocks.  Fingers reaching the directions of the toes.

Inhale and keep lifting and opening the chest.

Exhale and drop your head back without compressing your neck.  Let your head hang freely (make sure the chest is not collapsing and the trapezius muscles aren’t bunching).

On every inhale, find any more lift in your chest.  Every exhale find more release at the base of your neck. 

 Common misalignment:  Do not overbend in the lower back, taking the hips further forward than the knees.

To Exit

On an inhale, come all the way up with your hands flat on your hips, leading with your chest.  Your head comes up last.  Exhale and take a couple of breaths.     Release the hips and sit back – hips to feet.   

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