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Calm as a Camel

Camels are not native to my homeland. Imagine our delight, therefore, to actually see one when my wife and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in November of last year. (Although to be clear—and to avoid a scolding from our tour guide—what we actually saw was a dromedary, not a camel; the former having two humps instead of the latter which has only one.) Nevertheless, seeing the closest thing to the actual creature for the first time gave us the impression of such a peace-loving animal; we were lucky to have been spared of any spitting or kicking. It is no wonder, therefore, that one such yoga pose is named after this beautiful beast because of its calm disposition.

From the name itself, you may have figured that the Ustrasana (ustra = camel; asana = pose) or Camel Pose involves an arching stance that promotes a variety of health benefits. To give you a better idea of how this pose is done, below are some step-by-step instructions by Kino MacGregor of yogajournal.com:

How to Do It

  • 1.Come to your knees, with your legs hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips, with your thumbs on your sacrum, the bony plate at the base of your spine. Keep your hips over your knees and internally rotate your thighs, squeezing them toward each other.
  • 2.Inhale to engage your lower belly and reach your tailbone toward your knees, creating space between your lower vertebrae. (DON’T crunch the lower back by squeezing the butt, pushing the knees wider than hip-width apart, or pooching the belly.)
  • 3.On another inhalation, lift your sternum and draw your elbows toward each other, allowing your rib cage to expand.
  • 4.Keep your chest raised, your core engaged, your spine long, and your chin tucked as you drop your hands toward your heels.
  • 5.Press the heels of your hands into the heels of your feet while draping the fingers over the soles. Keep lifting through your sternum.
  • 6.Now lift your shoulders to allow the trapezius muscles between the shoulder blades to rise up and cushion your cervical spine. Gently lower the head and neck and gaze at the tip of your nose. (DON’T pinch the shoulders together, tensing the neck.)
  • 7.To exit the posture, bring your chin back toward your chest and your hands to your hips with your thumbs on your sacrum. Engage your lower belly and use your hands to support your lower back as you come up slowly.

According to Jacqueline Buchanan of doyouyoga.com, the Camel Pose has three main health benefits: physical, mental, and emotional.

In terms of physical benefits, the Camel Pose “increases flexibility in the spine, stimulates the nervous system, opens the chest and shoulders, improves circulation and digestion, and stimulates the thyroid.” This asana is also said to “decrease fat on the thighs, rejuvenate/increase energy levels, and lower blood pressure.” Much like other yoga poses that stretch the spine, the Ustrasana increases circulation. As a result, the body is detoxified because of improved digestion, and complexion becomes fairer and more beautiful.

Mental benefits include anxiety and stress relief. As the flexibility of the spine increases, tension in the neck, back, and shoulders decrease. In addition, the literal change in perspective when practicing the pose increases creativity and problem solving.

Finally, because the Ustrasana is directly linked your Anahata, or your heart chakra, the energy center of love, sense of caring, and compassion, the Camel Pose allows energy to flow freely to your heart, making you “operate in every action and thought from a place of love. You love others. You love yourself. You give love. You receive love.” Jacqueline Buchanan goes on to say that this asana can become emotionally intense at times as it “opens your chest and exposes a part of the body we actively protect, usually by hunching our shoulders forward and rounding through the upper spine. … If you’re going through a particularly difficult stage of life, or have just lost a loved one, this pose can be extremely painful.”

Ultimately, as with any other yoga pose, learn to ease into it. Don’t expect to reap all its health benefits in one try. Take things one step at a time. Before you know it, and with practice, you will master what it takes to live a more stress-free life by learning from the calm disposition of the camel.





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