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Yoga Backbends

Camel Pose

Bump up your energy by bending back into Camel Pose, called Urstrasana in Sanskrit. Urstrasana counteracts slouching and relieves lower back pain with a generous, heart-opening stretch while also helping to build confidence.


How to Say Ustrasana Sanskrit

ustra = camel

Camel Pose Step-by-Step Instructions

Model: Kady Lafferty
  1. Begin kneeling with your thighs perpendicular to the floor and your knees and feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Extend your big toes straight back, pressing down with all 10 toenails and firming your outer ankles into your midline.
  3. Spin your inner thighs back, and gently release the flesh of your buttocks toward the backs of your knees.
  4. Your pelvis is neutral, neither spilling forward nor spilling back, and stacks directly over your knees.
  5. Root down from the tops of your feet to your knees; rebound up with your chest.
  6. Bring your palms together in front of your sternum, and drop your chin toward your sternum.
  7. Take an inhalation to emphasize the lift of your chest, then create Savasana (Corpse Pose) arms (palms facing forward).
  8. With the next exhalation, keeping your chin dropping and your pelvis over your knees, take your hands to your heels.
  9. Immediately press your shoulder blades forward and up, and coil your thoracic spine to lift your chest any amount more.
  10. Having created more space/extension in your upper back, your head can now drop back and hang freely.
  11. Continue pressing down with your feet and lower legs in order to lift up with your thoracic spine and chest.
  12. Hold for 5–10 breaths, then, leading with your sternum, use an inhalation to come up (head is the last part of the body to exit).


Camel Pose Cues

Contraindications and Cautions of Camel Pose

  • Avoid or modify by not going as deeply into the pose if you feel any pinching or pain in your low back.
  • Avoid or modify if you have any shoulder pain, shoulder arthritis, or shoulder injuries.
  • Avoid or modify if you have any back pain or injuries, including surgeries.
  • For most, it is best not to drop your head back in this pose, particularly if you have a neck injury or are at risk for stroke. Instead, lift your chin slightly and use your neck muscles to stabilize your head in place.
  • If you are pregnant, ease off, and be cautious not to stretch your abdominals too much—especially during the third trimester—to prevent tearing the abdominal wall.
  • Don’t force your body into the pose; instead, move slowly and mindfully in and out of the pose.
  • If you have any pain with the pose or other limitations, try pose variations and modifications, or visualize doing the full expression of the pose in any position. Always ask your health care team if you are unsure of what you can and cannot do with your particular health concerns. Also, seek a qualified yoga instructor or yoga therapist to help you individually adapt the pose for safety.

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Benefits of Camel Pose

  • Can help build confidence and empowerment
  • Improves posture and counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting and doing computer work
  • May help relieve back pain
  • Can counteract slouching and kyphosis (abnormal curvature of the spine)
  • Stretches your abdomen, chest, shoulders, front of your hips (hip flexors), and front of your thighs (quadriceps)
  • Strengthens your back muscles, back of your thighs, and buttocks (glutes)

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3 Ways to Modify Camel Pose

1. Toes Tucked Camel

  • Try with a blanket under your knees for extra cushioning.
  • Tuck your toes under to add some height before you reach back.
  • Hold your head steady, lifting your chin slightly.
  • Stay for several deep breaths.

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2. Camel Pose with Hands on Hips

  • Bring your hands to your low back with your fingers facing downward and your elbows pointing back.
  • Gently arch your back into a backbend.
  • Lift your chin slightly, and press your chest forward and up.
  • Stay for several deep breaths.

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3. Camel with Blocks

  • Try with blocks at any height (or stacked) to extend your reach if reaching the floor is difficult or causes any pain.

Preparatory Poses for Camel Pose

  • Bhujangasana
  • Dhanurasana
  • Salabhasana
  • Low lunge
  • Bridge
  • Upward-facing dog

Follow-up Poses

  • Seated forward bend
  • Happy baby
  • Child’s pose

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Sequencing Tip

Ensure that you prep this pose by warming up your back body and psoas. Practice more gentle heart openers first to prevent injury. When you’re done backbending in your sequence, counter with gentle forward bends.

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