I’ll never forget the first time I did Ustrasana (Camel Pose). I felt like I was clamoring for air, didn’t know where to look, and at one point thought my neck might break. It felt anything but good; instead, I felt panicky, triggered, unsettled, and upset.
Fast-forward several years; I’m a yoga teacher now. Recently, I did an Instagram poll and found out that the most unpopular pose (according to my little corner of the world) is, you guessed it, Camel Pose. Though it is now one of my favorite shapes, both to practice and teach, I am not at all surprised by this.
If you’ve taken class with me recently, you’ve definitely done Camel and likely a handful of other love-to-hate backbends. Sometimes I make backbends my focus poses of the month. Because backbends can change your life. They changed mine.
I truly believe that movement on our mat is “practice” for life off the mat. We put practice into action when we step away from our mats and take with us what we learn through asana. This has proven particularly true for me in my backbending practice, as it helped me find healthy ways to navigate challenging moments and release deeply buried stress.
Building strength and finding joy after loss
I wandered into my first yoga flow class just months after an earth-shaking traumatic loss. As a beginner, I hadn’t the faintest clue that practice on my mat was actually practice for life. Though grief, loss, and trauma are not easy to experience or be around, they’re also inevitable. Even the most compassionate and eloquent humans fumble for the right words when we or another person is struggling. These feelings are uncomfortable, and most people want to escape from them as quickly as possible.