Ustrasana: Classic Heart Opening in Camel Pose
By Ray Long, MD, FRCSC • July 14th, 2011 • 15196 Views
Ustrasana extends the back of the body to stretch the front. The shoulders draw back to link the hands to the soles of the feet, and the knees lever the body up and forward to deepen the pose. The thighs tend to drift backward in Ustrasana, decreasing the angle between the upper and lower legs. Contract the quadriceps to extend the knees. This brings the thighs perpendicular to the floor, deepening the backbend (especially when the hands are holding the bottoms of the feet). Review the section on facilitated stretches to see how isolated stretching of the fronts of the shoulders and hips can improve this pose.
Notice how the individual parts work together to deepen the asana. For example, combine the subplot of extending the shoulders with the subplot of extending the knees to “triangulate” the spinal extension. Then engage the abdominals to produce the abdominal “air bag” effect. This prevents hyperextension of the lumbar spine and aids to protect the lower back.
Basic Joint Positions
• The knees flex.
• The ankles plantar flex.
• The hips extend, internally rotate, and adduct.
• The trunk extends.
• The shoulders extend.
• The elbows extend.
• The forearms supinate.
Begin with the hands on the hips and draw the elbows back and towards each other. Press downward on the hips to lift the chest. Then begin to arch the spine. Because this is a fairly advanced pose, work in this intermediate position at first to condition the muscles that arch the back—the erector spinae and quadratus lumborum. Contract the quadriceps to extend the knees and bring the thighs to an upright position, perpendicular to the floor. Practice easing into and out of this position by pressing the shins down and attempting to straighten the knees. This levers the body upright.
Once you have a good sense of balance, let the arms fall back symmetrically toward the feet. If you’re unable to reach the feet, then keep the hands on the hips. When you have gained sufficient flexibility, place the palms of the hands onto the soles of the feet. Take care not to rotate the body during this movement. Rotational movements while extending the spine, especially if unplanned, can result in injury. Maintain soft and steady breathing throughout.
Step 1 Activate the erector spinae and quadratus lumborum to extend the back evenly throughout the length of the vertebral column. Notice how these muscles connect with the sacrum and ilia of...
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