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Camel Pose (ustrasana)

Back bend that opens your chest and stretches your thighs.
 

Camel Pose (or ustrasana) is an advanced back bend that helps to open your chest and the front of your body. This pose also strengthens your back and spine, while providing an intense stretch to the front of your thighs.
 
As you stretch backward into the pose, try to keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor. Also, be careful not to drop your head back because this can compress the back of your neck. Your neck should stay in line with the curve of your spine. If you feel any strain in your neck, you can tuck your chin toward your chest as you hold the pose. When coming out of the pose, you should relax your neck and lift your upper body before you return your head to an upright position.
 
If kneeling on the floor is uncomfortable for you, you can place a blanket under your knees and feet. You should use caution when performing Camel Pose if you have a hernia or problems with your neck, shoulders, back or knees.
 
Steps:
Kneel on the floor with your knees and feet hip width apart and your toes curled under.
Place your hands on your lower back, with your fingers pointing down.
Press your thighs and the front of your pelvis forward, while you tuck your tailbone down and under.
Inhale as you lift your ribcage and lengthen through your spine.
Press your shoulders back and allow your upper arms to follow
Lift your heart toward the ceiling and then bend your upper body backward.
(You should try to bend from as high in your back as possible.)
Keep your head upright and look straight ahead to keep your neck long.
Reach your right hand back to your right foot and place your palm on your heel or ankle.
Reach your left hand back to your left foot and place your palm on your heel or ankle.
(Try to keep your thighs as perpendicular to the floor as possible.)
Lengthen the back of your neck and then tilt your head to look up at the ceiling. Make sure you keep your neck long.
Hold the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
To come out of the pose, inhale as you lift your upper body and return to a kneeling position.
(After performing Camel Pose, you should perform a forward bend, such as Child's Pose, to release your spine.)
 
What can I do if I cannot reach my feet in this pose?
You can position blocks vertically on either side of your feet and rest your hands on the blocks.
 
How can I deepen Camel Pose?
Rest the top of your feet on the floor and point your toes behind you, instead of curling your toes under. You will need to stretch further down to reach your heels in this modification, so be careful not to compress your lower back.
 
How can I open my chest and the front of my body more in this pose?
Perform the pose as described in the steps above, except reach only one hand back to your foot and then stretch your other hand above your head so your upper arm is beside your ear. Make sure you keep your thighs as perpendicular to the floor as possible. Repeat this modification for your other side.
 
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