Saturday, October 1, 2011

October - Pose of the Month - Ustrasana

Ustrasana - Camel's Pose

This month's pose is a back bend. It is best to warm up first before Ustrasana.  I have shown a few variations of this pose.

This first variation of Ustrasana is at the wall.  Although not everyone will have a yoga wall I have shown this to helps to get the idea of keeping the thighbones perpendicular to the floor as the back lifts and arches back.  You can also place a chair at the wall and facing the chair have the hips just touching the chair.
As you press down into the shins, keep them hip distance apart.  Draw the tailbone into the body, press the buttocks forward.  The hips press forward, but stay in line with the thighs and knees.  Lift the chest and upper back as the back arches.  Hanging onto the straps to help lift the spine and arch back.  Extending throughout the back of the neck, take the head back.  Inhale to come up.  Press the forehead to the wall for a few breaths.

Another way to perform Ustrasana is to raise the floor up a little bit by placing a bolster on top of the calves.  This will make keeping the thighs perpendicular to the floor easier, as well as keeping the spine lifting as it arches back.
If kneeling bothers the knees place a folded blanket or mat under the knees and shins.  Begin with the shins parallel, hip width apart and toes pointing back.  Place the heels of the hands on the sacrum and begin to press the flesh down, lengthening the lower back and lifting the spine up and press the hips forward.  Begin to arch the back by lifting the upper back and chest.
Take the hands down further onto the bolster.  From the centre of the chest broaden the collarbones out to the shoulders and let the shoulders release back.  Press into the fingertips to keep lifting the spine into the body.  Breath evenly.  Release the head back.  To come up, inhale, press into the bolster and lift from the sternum.
After performing Ustrasana, release back into Vajrasana, either sitting right back on heels or on a bolster.  Perform a few times.
Following the same points above; another option is to tuck the toes under to raise the heels up and bring the hands down to the height of the heels.
Or onto the height of blocks at the side of the ankles.

For the full pose: The knees, thighs and feet can be together or hip width apart to begin (shown above).
Press down into tops of feet and shins and move hands down the back of the thighs from the sacrum with hips pressing forward, but in line with knees.  Draw the tailbone into the body and up the spine and begin to arch the back, bringing the spine into the body.
Release the hands to the feet either one at a time or at the same time and press the hands into the souls of the feet.  As you push into the feet, draw the tailbone in and up more, release the shoulder back, drawing the shoulder blades deeper into the body.  With the head releasing back, let the throat remain soft.  Stay about 30 sec. each time.  Inhale to come up, press into shins and lift from chest.  Sit back into vajrasana on heels between repetitions.  Repeat 2-3 times.

This variation is very restorative and should be practiced if you are feeling weak.  It is also good if you are extremely tight in shoulders and upper back or suffer from lower back pain.  In this variation, place a chair near the wall with one or two bolsters on top.  Have the bolsters going through the chair enough that you can press into the bolsters and are still fairly close to the chair.  Use support for the back of the head and neck.  Keep the knees hip width apart and shins parallel.  Press into shins, thighs pressing forward in line with hips and arch back over bolsters, draw the tailbone in and up and let the shoulders release, keeping the chest open.  Inhale to come up as press into shins and lift from the breastbone (sternum bone).
If you feel you need to, release into Adho Mukha Virasana.  Above is a supported version where the abdomen and full length of the front body is supported.  The back of the neck and spine should lengthen evenly as the abdomen and hip flexsors release.  If you are doing this pose without the support of the bolsters and your back is rounding considerably or if feels like your head is hanging down to reach the floor, take the support of one or two bolsters.

Benefits:  Helps correct posture, increases lung capacity, improves circulation to the organs of the body, tones the muscles of back and spine, removes stiffness in shoulders back and spine and can help relieve abdominal cramps and regulate menstrual flow.

Cautions: Do not practice if have herniated disk, severe constipation, diarrhea, headache, migraine or hypertension.

Pamela Nelson

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.