Release and extend

Article Sian Lewis Nov 13, 2012

Improve flexibility and strengthen your back and spine with the Camel pose (Ustrasana)

Benefits
Provides an intense stretch to your chest, hip flexors, back and spine. 

HOW TO DO IT

• Kneel on the floor with your knees and feet hip-width apart. Curl your toes under and place your hands on your lower back for support.

• Exhale, release your thighs and pelvis forward as you curve your spine back, then move your arms down toward your heels and hold them with your hands.

• Inhale. Lift your chest and ribcage up and lengthen your spine. Keep lifting, and open your chest, as you look behind you and uncurl your toes so they are resting flat on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and then release slowly returning to your original position.


Make it harder
• To add extra challenge, try taking hold of your opposite ankles, or perform the pose with your thighs, calves, and inner feet all touching. This will force you to stretch back further, resulting in a deeper stretch along  the front of your body.

Make it easier
• If you find this pose difficult, place a rolled up blanket under your feet, so your heels are easier to reach. You can also place yoga blocks on either side of your feet so you can rest your hands on the blocks rather than on your heels.

H&F Tips: 
SHOULDERS: Straighten your arms and hold your heels firmly to activate your shoulders and increase flexibility.

THIGHS: Keep your thighs as vertical as possible. This will open up your body up even more.

STOMACH: Pull your belly button both up and back to reduce the strain on the discs in the lower back.

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