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Grouped among the so-called baby backbends, which includes Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and Sea Monster Pose (described in the Variations section below), Salabhasana (Locust Pose) is an unassuming posture that is more interesting and challenging than it appears at first glance.
Salabhasana takes some back and abdominal strength, plus mental fortitude to hold the pose. Focus on lengthening your spine and distributing the backbend evenly through your upper, middle, and lower back. No crunching that lumbar area! Engaging all of your back muscles instead of just those in your lower back will help open your chest and shoulders. Building up strength and stretching your chest not only feel good to those of us that spend most of our days hunched over our computers, but will also result in better posture.
Locust Pose basics
Pose type: Backbend
Target area: Upper Body
Why we love it: “l treasure my rotator cuffs, and this pose always presented a challenge for me until I used Chaturanga Dandasana as a base,” says Sarah LaVigne, Yoga Journal‘s contributing photo editor. “Locust always comes closer to the end my practice, so setting up in a familiar pose helps. I no longer look like a pretzel while getting into the pose, and my shoulders thank me!”
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Locust Pose improves posture and counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting and computer work. It may help relieve lower back pain, can counteract slouching and kyphosis (abnormal curvature of the spine), and strengthens your back muscles, especially the muscles supporting your spine.
Locust Pose: Step-by-step instructions
- Begin on your belly with your feet together and your hands reaching back, palms down.
- Extend your big toes straight back and press down with all ten toenails to activate your quadriceps.
- Rotate your inner thighs to the ceiling to broaden your lower back.
- Keeping your hands lightly on the mat, raise your head and chest and your legs, leading with your inner thighs.
- Roll your shoulders back and up away from the floor. Keep the back of your neck long and emphasize lifting your sternum instead of lifting your chin. Don’t grip your glutes.
- To come out of the pose, slowly release.
- Beginners sometimes have difficulty sustaining the lift of the torso and legs in this pose. Begin the pose with your hands resting on the floor, a little bit back from the shoulders, closer to your waist. Inhale and gently push your hands against the floor to help lift the upper torso. Then, keep the hands in place as you do the pose, or after a few breaths, once you’ve established the lift of the chest, swing them back into the position described above in step 3.
These tips will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:
- If you focus your attention on how high you go, you may feel strain in your lower back. Instead, you want to distribute the backbend throughout your upper, middle, and lower back, which requires you to open the chest.
- Don’t bend your knees. This will compromise the action of your legs and add pressure to your lower back by distributing too much weight to your lower vertebrae.
Variation: Half Locust Pose
If you find it challenging to lift both your upper and lower body at the same time, just lift your upper body to prepare and focus on your upper back muscles. You can bring your hands behind you and interlace them or simply reach your hands back without interlacing.