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“Camel hurts my back.” “That pose is not comfortable.” “I can’t go very far back.”
This pose is one of the ones that I receive the most complaints about when I teach it in class. You’re not alone, it’s one of the most difficult for me too. Students who are typically quite flexible, even in the spine, can struggle with this one. Why is that?
Let’s take a look at this tricky pose, break it down step by step with alignment cues. Followed by some tips and tricks.
Start from tall kneeling, with the hips over the knees and knees hip width apart.
Toes can be tucked under, or on the tops of the feet.
Place the hands on the low back, fingers pointing down and elbows squeezing back.
Push your hips forward.
Lengthen the tailbone down.
Pull the naval in and also up.
Lift through the upper back.
Keep the head from dropping back, the neck is extension of your spine.
Hands may come down on to the ankles (as in the picture).
Some students may be able to take it down to the forearms. But you don’t need to!
The most common problem is putting too much stress in to the lower back. Students often stick their butt back and their belly forward. If you are trying to back bend from here, your anatomy will not allow that to happen.
Think instead of this pose as a heart opener. Shifting your attention to the chest. Focus on lifting and lengthening the spine up. Opening the rib cage. Expanding the collarbone. As if there is a string tied around your heart and it is connected to the ceiling, lifting you up.
If you have a yoga block, you can place it in between the thighs. Squeezing and holding on to this will activate your adductors. In turn, engaging your abdominals and protecting your low back.
Focus on keeping length, rather than how far back you can go. You will feel this pose without too much movement.
This pose is very similar to bow pose. It’s a big opening in the chest and the upper back.
If this pose is uncomfortable for the knees, feel free to pad them by rolling up your mat or sliding a blanket under.
When you come out of the pose, release your back with a gentle spinal twist (i.e. reclined spinal twist).
I made a short video walking you through this pose, click to watch it below.
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