7 Heart-Freeing Camel Pose Variations from Carrie Owerko

Try these liberating variations of Ustrasana (Camel Pose) from senior Iyengar Yoga teacher Carrie Owerko.

Yoga Journal’s new online Master Class program brings the wisdom of world- renowned teachers to your fingertips, o ering access to exclusive workshops with a di erent master teacher every six weeks. This month, Carrie Owerko presents a playful Iyengar Yoga practice designed to bring more joy into your life. If you’re ready to get a fresh perspective and maybe even meet a lifelong yoga mentor, sign up for YJ’s year-long membership at yogajournal.com/ masterclass.

Iyengar yoga is a dynamic process of inquiry, informed and inspired by a man who dedicated his entire life to exploration, says Owerko. In this short sequence, Owerko props up your Ustrasana with variations that warm up your shoulders, quads, and back and encourage expansion and feelings of safety during moments of vulnerability. Along the way, she touches on, and plays with, some themes and principles that make Iyengar Yoga so experimental, adaptable, and sustainable.

Before exploring Ustrasana, enliven your legs (and the rest of your body) with a few standing poses like Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose), Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose), and Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I). Then mobilize your mid- or thoracic spine with Parighasana (Gate Pose) and Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose) over a block or two.

See also Prop Up Your Backbend: 5 Steps to Kapotasana

Opening the thoracic region before practicing Ustrasana is essential so that the neck does not overextend due to a stiff upper back. Finally, if you have tight shoulders, try warm-up poses that emphasize shoulder extension, such as interlacing your fingers (or holding onto a strap) behind your back in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend).

For extra cushioning in the following Ustrasana variations, place a blanket on your mat under your knees and use an additional mat over your chair. Once you’ve settled into the poses and props, try to stay in each variation for several breaths. Finally, don’t forget to play!

See also Iyengar 101: Yoga Teacher Carrie Owerko's Personal Story