Just as a sole little locust may be forgotten, Salabhasana (Locust Pose) is often overlooked as a preparatory pose for more impressive-looking backbends like Ustrasana (Camel Pose) and Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose). But the power of locusts lie in their sheer number. And in one’s yoga journey, the power of Salabhasana lies in the sheer number of times we practice this pose. If you are practicing Salabhasana frequently or looking to add the pose into your practice, now is the best time to dig in and learn the proper alignment for a strong foundation in Salabhasana.
Let’s break it down, and examine what is happening in the body during Salabhasana.
Soft gaze forward toward the horizon with the chin parallel to the floor in the final variation. As you build your spine strength, feel comfortable looking down at your nose and keeping your neck in line with your shoulders, leaving a fist’s distance between your chin and neck.
The anterior deltoids lengthen while the shoulder blades extend back toward the hips to lift the shoulders off the floor. The collarbones lift apart to help smile the heart forward and create the backbend. Lift your torso in extension and focus your body’s weight on the abdominal area, strengthening your diaphragm.
The chest starts in a prone position, because compression of the internal organs increases the intra-abdominal pressure and resistance on the diaphragm. While your weight is resting on the abdominals, the rectus and transverse abdominal muscles cannot rest; they need to keep engaged to protect the lower back and lumbar spine.
The elbows are extended and the backs of the hands rest up by the hips in a supinated position. Eventually the hands will lift parallel to the hips.
The hips are extended to help lift the legs. The glutes activate to draw the pelvis back and down to help widen the sacrum. Engaging the mula bandha helps centralize all the actions in the legs and hips as well as lengthen the spine and protect the lower lumbar spine.
The glutes are the powerhouse for lifting the legs; however, focus on the outer legs (specifically the tensor fascia lata) to internally rotate the legs and keep the knees in a neutral position facing down toward the earth. When lifting the legs, the knees can have a soft bend until the final moments, when the knees will extend to complete the asana.
The feet can be unhelpful dead weights, or they can engage to aid in the leg lift. Super-glue your toes together and plantar flex the ankles slightly so the balls of the feet are parallel to the floor.
1. Baby Cobra
In Baby Cobra, you will start to strengthen the anterior deltoids and build upper spine strength. Focus on engaging the rectus and transverse abdominal muscles in this prep pose to build diaphragm strength.
2. Leg Lift
Relax the upper body and focus on the pubic bone staying grounded while the legs lift together. This is a great time to practice the mula bandha and squeeze the legs together from the inner thighs to the inner arches of the feet.
3. Sphinx Upper Body with Leg Lift
Focus on expanding the collarbones and reaching the shoulder blades down the body toward the pelvis. Working on the leg lift while the body is still supported by the arms aids in isolating the actions and focusing on the integrity of the leg lift.
You are ready to activate everything together. Hold for five breaths or as long as it is comfortable to still breathe and not build excessive tension in the neck and lower back.
Salabhasana is a gentle backbend that requires full body extension and strength. It is all about repetition and practice over time.
Image credit: Alissa