Camel Pose, Ustrasana. Sometimes just hearing the name can make me feel lightheaded. When I started practicing, my friend and I used to give each other a knowing look of fear whenever the instructor would announce this dreaded posture. I can vividly remember one class, a few months into my yoga practice, where I was finally starting to feel much stronger as I set up for camel pose. It wasn't until I layed down in savasana immediately afterwards, I started crying. I laid there, shocked, confused and overwhelmed with emotion. Any possible causes of stress or sadness in my life flipped through my mind, but nothing stood out. I wiped my eyes and carried on with my practice, and the feelings faded away with my breath.
Perhaps you've had a similar experience. It's common to feel dizzy, nauseous, or emotional in this deep backbend. But why?
In our society, we're often found slouched over our laptops, phones, and desks... This posture is opening our body up to the complete opposite range of motion, an opportunity that is rarely found outside of a yoga studio. Although this expression is tremendously healing for our spines, it can feel anything but. We hold a lot of tension in our chest, physically and emotionally, while Camel Pose stretches and opens up the whole front side of the body.
If you think about it, our body's natural reaction to danger is to curl inward; rounding our shoulders and upper spine, tucking our chin to our chest... similar to fetal position. This is done to protect our neck and chest, the most vulnerable areas of our body. When we bend backwards and expose these spaces we normally protect, it's forces us into a very vulnerable position. Personally, I feel more mind-body connection in this pose than any other.
Camel pose is a heart-opener. The Heart Chakra (Anahata) is said to be tied to your sense of compassion, love, acceptance and forgiveness. This posture encourages us to open up in those areas of our life. To find new space, get comfortable with our emotions, and live life with an open heart. So next time you're in camel pose, don't shy away. Take a moment to breathe deeply, and enjoy whatever arises.
Stop the words now.
Open the window in the centre of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.