Learn how to safely practice camel pose (ustrasana) with supportive variations that use props and allow you to deepen your backbend over time.
Camel pose (ustrasana) is both a powerful and vulnerable backbend that opens our heart to new possibilities. It can feel energizing, spacious and a little scary.
Camel pose activates the heart chakra (anahata). It is the energetic center associated with love, empathy and healing. Opening the heart can feel vulnerable as emotions are unlocked and released. I’ve felt a wide range of emotions in camel pose, from bliss and gratitude to grief and overwhelm. The key is to breathe deep and be present as emotions arise. The sensation will pass and you will be left with more space in the body, alignment in the heart and clarity in the mind.
Along with the energetic and emotional benefits, camel pose has several benefits for the body:
More flexibility of the spine
Improves posture by stretching the shoulders and opening the chest (reversing the effects of sitting for long periods of time)
Strengthens the abs, thighs, back, hamstrings and glutes
Lengthens the hip flexors
Increases circulation, lung capacity and digestion
Decreases stress and anxiety
Increases creativity and the ability to see new perspectives
There are many different ways you can practice camel pose depending on what your body needs — and this may change day to day based on your movement patterns, thoughts, emotions and experiences. In this video, you can try six different variations of camel pose to ease into a supported backbend and go deeper over time. I recommend warming up with a few rounds of sun salutations. Make sure you are cleared by a doctor before trying camel pose, especially if you have a hernia, injury in the neck, shoulder or back, inflammation, or recent abdominal surgery.
You can read about the ways to practice camel pose below:
Use a chair: sit on a sturdy chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground facing forward. Lean your upper back over the chair and walk your hands down the legs of the chair to open your heart.
Try a baby camel pose: From hero’s pose (virasana), slide your hands back toward the outsides of your feet. You can place your hands on blocks to elevate the ground. Squeeze the muscles between your shoulders. You can lift your hips up any amount to stretch your front body.
Lunging camel: Come into a low lunge (anjaneyasana) with the right leg in front. Tuck your back toes. Place your left hand on your back heel or a block next to the foot. Open your chest. Reach your right arm up and back. Return to low lunge, switch legs and repeat on the left side.
Hands steadying the pelvis: Come into a kneeling position. Place your hands on your lower back to stabilize your pelvis. Engage your glutes lightly without gripping them. Bring your elbows toward each other and squeeze the muscles between your shoulders. Imagine a string lifting your heart up.
Using blocks: Come into a kneeling position. Place blocks on the outsides of your feet. Begin to lift your chest up. Lower your hands to the blocks. Squeeze the muscles between your shoulders. You can tuck your chin to lengthen the back of your neck or you can gently tip your head back opening the front of your throat.
No blocks: Come into a kneeling position. Your toes can be tucked or untucked (tucked provides a little more height for the hands). Begin to lift your chest up. Lower your hands to your heels. Squeeze the muscles between your shoulders. Choose a comfortable position for your neck.
I recommend softening into camel pose for about 5 breaths. If you start to feel dizzy or lightheaded, slowly return upright and sit back on your heels for a few rounds of breath as you integrate the magic of the posture.
Some days, the shape may feel effortless and some days it may feel stiff or awkward. Be gentle and patient with yourself. Approach every sensation and emotion with curiosity. You can come back to this tutorial each week to deepen your practice.
I’d love to hear about your experience. Leave me a comment below and let me know which variation was most helpful for you. For more yoga tutorials, subscribe to my YouTube channel.
With gratitude and love,