Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Asana of the week

Ustrasana. Also known as camel pose.

This pose used to scare the crap out of me.

I have a weird thing with my neck. I get a little squeamish when it is touched, and letting it hang in back of me used to be terrifying. (My only explanation for this is that I was Marie Antoinette in a past life, and I have some weird form of PTSD. Makes sense, right?)

Anyway, every time a Yoga teacher would announce that camel pose was coming up, I would get a little shiver of anxiety down my spine, and my previously decapitated neck would start to ache (ok I'll stop) Seriously, though, I felt real fear. I would go partly into the pose, start to freak out, and jerk myself out of it. This is very unsafe.

Fast forward to my teacher training program at Centered City Yoga (I'll write more on that later) We were taking a core class with Carrie. She started leading us into camel. I slowly went into it, used my deep breathing to calm my mind down, and something amazing happened. I stayed in the pose, and I didn't freak out. I suddenly started to see why people do this pose. When I came out of it slowly, I had such an amazing feeling of having conquered something challenging. I also felt myself open up. I was sitting up straighter and I felt a sense of confidence, generosity, and happiness radiating from me.

I know it sounds weird. How can bending backward cause you to feel a psychological shift? Well, that is what I have discovered about Yoga. Your mat is a safe little place where you can work things out. If you face a fear on the mat, you are more likely to be able to do it in your daily life. There is a sense of empowerment that happens. I strongly believe that what we do physically can greatly affect our emotional and mental state. With camel pose, as well as with all of the backbending poses, you are literally opening up through your chest which naturally makes you feel more open and generous as a person.

Okay. That's enough lecturing.

Let's do the pose.

Now keep in mind that there are different ways to do every pose, and each teacher will teach it differently. So you have to find out what works best for you.

First, stand on your knees. They should be about hip distance apart with the tops of the feet on the floor

Second, place your hands (palms down, fingers pointing to feet) on the top part of your butt. You should be able to feel all the squishy goodness. If you don't, your hands are too high.

Third, you are going to lean back now. Oh yes you are. And you are going to use your breath to remind your mind to calm the freak down.

As you bend backward, only go as far as feels comfortable to you. If you feel good only going halfway, then do that.

If you would like more of a challenge, refer to the picture above. Place your right hand on your right heel, then do the same with the left hand. Let your head drop and hang behind you. As you inhale, open up through the chest. As you exhale, push the hips and abdomen forward to avoid compressing your lower back.

Hold and breathe for as long as you want. When you have had enough fun, slowly come up and keep pushing your hips forward. Your head should come up last

There. You just did camel pose!

If that was really challenging and felt like a huge milestone for you, then congrats.

If that pose has always been a breeze for you, I don't trust you.


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