The Fall season is characterized by dryness as the winds begin to pick up. During this season, focus on keeping the joints lubricated by warming up with slow circular twists, expanding the lungs with backbends, and eating warm grounding foods like root vegetables and stews.
Backbends are wonderful for lubricating the lungs as they expand the chest, allowing the breath to deepen. Camel pose is a great peak pose to work up to in a grounding autumn flow. It supports all the vital systems- circulatory, nervous, endocrine, and respiratory. Camel can also energize the body as the cooler months sweep in.
Philosophy & Origin
Camel, Ustrasana, is named because it physically creates a hump in the body that resembles a camel. The leg position also emulates the way a camel folds its legs underneath itself to sit. Metaphorically, we can also benefit from moving into the pose methodically and slow like a camel, maintaining ease and poise.
Camel Pose: Step-by-Step
- Begin by kneeling upright with your knees hip-distance apart. Press your shins and tops of the feet into the floor. Slightly rotate your thighs inward. Keep your buttocks relaxed.
- Place your hands, fingers pointed down, touching your waistline or where the top of your pants sit. Lengthen your tailbone down towards the floor.
- On an inhale start to lean back, drawing up towards the ceiling as much as possible before curving the back. Maintain the length in the low back as you bend from the upper back. This will protect from dumping your weight into the low back. Beginners can stay here.
- If it’s available to you, release your hands to grasp the top of your heels while maintaining a straight line from your thighs up through your hips. If your hands can’t rest comfortably on your heels, you have options here to lift onto the ball of your feet to draw your heels closer or use blocks on either side of the feet.
- Continue to lengthen through your pelvis in the backbend. Keep your head neutral or allow it to gently release back without straining or crunching.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds.
- To release the pose, place your hands onto your low back. Lower your chin and lead with your chest, utilizing the strength of your low belly, to come back up to a neutral spine.
- Reset the spine after camel by following up with a long child’s pose, some seated twists, and a happy baby. In happy baby, you can rock side to side giving the spine a nice massage.
Adjustments and Modifications
- You don’t have to bend yourself into a pretzel to get a good backbend. You should ease into backbends, using props to support yourself in deep stretches and using your breath to create a symmetrical, shallow arch in your back that takes the pressure off your lower back.
- New yogis may not be able to touch their hands to their feet without causing strain to the back and/or neck. First attempt it by turning the toes under and elevated the heels.
- If you can go farther than a slight backbend but can’t quite reach your toes, place a block on either side of your feet and rest your hands there.
- Try a blanket beneath the ankles and/or knees if it feels like you need more padding between you and the floor.
- Bring a block between the thighs or use a strap to bind the thighs just above the knees. Both will help keep the legs active and prevent them from floating apart.
- For a deeper challenge, keep your feet and inner thighs together during the backbend.
Also See: Truth in Tree Pose
Camel pose stretches the whole front of the body making it especially great to counter all the time we spend hunched over computers and phones. Speaking of which, October is one of the best months for outdoor fall festivals. So get off your phone and go enjoy the weather!
The winds of autumn can bring unsteadiness and a feeling of frenzied energy. Being rooted in nature can help us maintain steadiness and calm. Maybe you even consider taking your yoga practice outside this month? As your lungs expand in camel pose, breathe in the sweet nourishing cool air of nature’s medicine.
Yoga Pose of the month sponsored by Madeline Dolgin of Healing Seams.