When I think of moving into Camel Pose, or Ustrasana, I can’t help but notice a little something deep in my belly -- it’s as if my body is conditioned to feel all the emotions my mind knows Camel will invite. Perhaps the power of visualization really is all they say it is.
Give it a go -- close your eyes and picture yourself arching your chest and reaching your hands back to clasp around your ankles. Picture a golden silk thread extending out of your heart and up into the sky. Do you feel the pose emotionally or spiritually anywhere in your body? Just take a moment to notice what this visualization does for you.
Camel Pose, and backbends like it, can be physically challenging and beneficial. Emotionally, they can create a sense of vulnerability we usually shy away from. Ustrasana, like a camel journeying through the Sahara, requires stamina, endurance, and a commitment to inner awareness. While this pose is a journey and not a destination, when you do finally arrive to your own unique location after crossing that Sahara, it’s totally worth it physically, mentally and emotionally.
Here you'll find the holistic benefits of Camel Pose, and why you should work it into your practice.
Beginning with the most superficial level of benefits, Camel Pose increases flexibility in the spine, stimulates the nervous system, opens the chest and shoulders, improves circulation and digestion, and stimulates the thyroid. It’s said to decrease fat on the thighs, rejuvenate/increase energy levels, and lower blood pressure.
Poses like Camel that increase circulation also detox the body (by improving digestion) while increasing blood flow to your face to create a beautiful complexion.
The spine is meant to bend in both directions, so while you’ve probably only worked it in one direction all day (forward), backbends like Camel Pose can return or restore the natural flexibility of your spine.
One of the most notable benefits of Camel Pose, and other backbends, is anxiety and stress relief. Our minds often follow our bodies, so by increasing the flexibility in your spine and relieving the tension in your neck, back, and shoulders, you increase the flexibility in your mind. Open your body, open your mind.
Camel Pose is also said to increase creativity and problem solving thanks to a change in perspective.
Another fantastic mental benefit of Camel Pose is the ability to process emotions. Camel brings deeply rooted emotions to the forefront, and by working into them in this pose, you can mentally recognize them, and if needed act on them.
So essentially, you can turn the intangible nature of emotions into mentally tangible actions.
Camel Pose links directly to your heart chakra, Anahata. It is your energy center of love, and responsible for your sense of caring and compassion. Located behind the heart, Anahata opens for energy to flow freely through it in Camel Pose. When your heart chakra is open, and energy flows freely, you operate in every action and thought from a place of love.
You love others. You love yourself. You give love. You receive love.
Depending on your current emotional state, Camel can be quite emotionally intense. Often this pose brings up deeply seated emotions you thought you’d dealt with ages ago. But alas, body knows best. A few seconds into Camel and, boom, here they come like a waterfall washing over you.
The pose 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. So it physically forces you into a vulnerable position. As I mentioned before, the mind often follows the body.
Once you create this open position in the heart chakra, and expose an area we often protect, emotions begin to flush the body. If you’re going through a particularly difficult stage of life, or have just lost a loved one, this pose can be extremely painful. Work into it when you’re ready to deal with the rush of emotions that accompanies it.
Be gentle with yourself -- physically, mentally and emotionally.
Although at first a difficult pose physically and emotionally, Ustrasana is a wonderfully vulnerable posture that benefits the mind, body, and soul. Remember to breathe as your focus moves from the slight physical discomfort to the slight emotional discomfort, and then into the intense emotional cleansing and mental clarity that emerges through perseverance.
What benefits have you experienced in Camel Pose, either physically, mentally, or emotionally? Share your stories with us below!