This new series of blog posts features tips and tricks by teachers and students, each of whom has mastered a specific posture in the Bikram Yoga series! Think of it as an “insider’s guide” to doing the poses – each week you’ll learn something new that will help you advance your own practice!
Posture: Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Expert: BYV Teacher Carolyn T.
Camel is one of my favourite postures in the Bikram Yoga series; it makes my spine feel awake and alive after. Even on days when my spine feels like it’s fused with cement (we’ve all experienced those days!), I know I will feel more open after Camel Pose – I just may not go as deep into it as I do during my more flexible classes.
Each time I do Camel Pose, I focus on these points:
- First, I make sure my feet are the same distance apart as my knees – so that I can’t see them in the mirror.
- As I push my hips forward, I start lifting my chest and dropping my head back. Once I can see the floor behind me I take a breath, then grab for my heels. I make sure my grip is tight so that my palm envelops the entire heel.
- I focus on relaxing my neck and shoulders while lifting my sternum (breastbone) toward the ceiling. I push my hips more forward by contracting my buttocks, all the while maintaining the lift in my chest. I then bring my shoulder blades together to open my chest and shoulders a little more.
- Next, I drop my eyes back toward the floor and then my mat, working toward catching a glimpse of my feet! I then try to relax into the pose and enjoy the backbend. I think this is important, as it’s really what yoga is all about – connecting with your body through your breath, and enjoying being in the moment.
- Exiting out of camel, I place my hands one at a time back onto my hips, keeping the “push” momentum of my hips forward as I slowly arch back up to the starting position. Coming up slowly helps me make sure I bring my neck and then head up last, so I’m not putting any unnecessary stress on the vertebrae and muscles throughout the back and neck.
On a final note, while most teachers warn you not to drink water (or your beverage of choice in the hot room) before Camel, the same is true immediately after this posture. After all, you just finished stretching out all the organs of your torso, including your stomach, and opened your throat and heart chakras; the last thing you want to do is flood them with water again. The best thing to do after Camel Pose is to lie in Savasana and just enjoy reaping the benefits of this amazing posture.