Asana assignment 5:
Ustrasana, also called “Camel Pose” can be an awkward asana for my neck. Just like Fish pose, the position invites the neck to fall back, although in this pose, there is nowhere for the crown to rest.
To begin this pose, stand on your knees with your toes curled under: knees aligned with your hips and hips in line with your shoulders. Place both hand on your low back, finger facing down toward the floor. With each breath, create elongation of the spine, slowly arching the spine into a backbend, tailbone anchored down. You may stay in this position with your neck either looking forward, toward the ceiling, or drop it all the way back. Your hands may meet blocks (modification) or your ankles. An advanced version is to have the tops of the feet flat on the floor with your hands on your heels. Shoulders will be in alignment with your ankles. To exit this pose must be done with grace! Lead with the heart as you lift one hand off each ankle, one at a time, and raise them forward in front of the body and on the hips. These steps were referenced by Yoga Journal.
A modification is to keep the neck perpendicular to the ground while keeping both hands on the low back, fingers facing toward the floor. Holding this pose helps strengthen the back while opening the shoulders, chest, and quadriceps. It is important to allow space in the neck and to avoid compressing the low back when in this backbend. It's difficult to relax into this pose as the neck can carry some tension with gravity. As long as the breath is able to move freely, it is safe to say the body is safe.
After practicing this pose for some time, I am noticing that I am able to arc my back more easily, allowing the vertebrae to be elongated, while creating less compression in the low back. This has invited my body to now reach the heels with the feet flat on the floor! Since this 250 hour training, I have been really pleased with seeing how my body has been transforming with each pose, especially with the back bends!