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Feel the Wheel

Build up to Kapotasana by creating a flow of circular energy in your spine.

By Barbara Benagh

Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

Pause in Child's Pose, taking time to steady your breath. When you are ready, coil into Upward-Facing Thunderbolt, relying again on your somatic memory to recall the circular energy of Cobra Pose. Pause to reinforce the grounding action of connecting the pubis and tailbone to the legs. Notice how this deepens the groins and invites a slight internal rotation of the thighs. Keeping your head back, exhale and press your hands strongly against your heels to lift the sternum and swing your hips over your knees to Ustrasana. The beauty of arching up through Upward-Facing Thunderbolt to Camel Pose is that it requires you to move with integrated spinal extension, especially in the oft-neglected midspine. Without this integration, the tendency is to borrow the movement from the quadriceps, causing you to round (flex) the back and push the thighs forward and stress the lower back and neck. It may also prevent you from getting into Camel Pose.

It's ultimately liberating to move from the inner guidance of circular energy, but it can be confusing at first. If you are puzzled, pause and spend a few breaths considering your route from Child's Pose to Camel Pose. When I assist a student with this pattern, I do so by sitting behind her, holding her arms and gently pressing my foot into the dull midback to make the circular spinal movement from Upward Thunderbolt to Camel Pose more conscious. I'm not there to help you now, but perhaps you can imagine it.

Remember, lead with the head and chest and deepen the groins as you push into Camel Pose. If you are not yet flexible enough to hold your heels during the transition to Camel Pose, place a strap under your feet in Child's Pose and hold on to each end to create a little more room for your backbend. Do not, however, be too quick to use this option; usually the problem is not lack of flexibility, but a loss of the wheel-like energy of the backbend.

Once you are in Camel, keep your weight equally distributed between both knees and feet. Tether the pubis and -tailbone to the legs. You'll find that this action supports your lower back and generates a strong lift of the belly out of the pelvis to help release the spine into a deep backbend. Continue to expand and lift the chest, since this encourages the circular energy in your upper spine and allows you to drop the head back comfortably.

After a few breaths, come out of the pose in reverse: From Camel, with your head back and your chest lifted, roll the thighs in and reach with the pubis toward the feet to sit back down in Upward-Facing Thunderbolt. Pause, and then return to Child's Pose, head last. Expect this flow to be a little shaky at first. The tendency to push with the thighs will cause you to round your back and make returning to Upward Thunderbolt difficult. Remember: head back, pubis toward heels.

Repeat the sequence of Child's Pose to Upward-Facing Thunderbolt Pose to Camel Pose once or twice more to fix the feeling of the circular flow in your spine. Until your body understands this wheel-like movement and you can move into Camel from Child's Pose without a strap, I don't advise going further with this sequence. I also suggest stopping here if you are exhausted or unable to avoid pain in your lower back or shoulders.

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Reader Comments

Maria Camargo

very helpfull. thank you.

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