Instructor: Sarah N.
Sarah has completed an intensive yoga teacher training program in Pune, India at the BKS Iyengar Yoga Institute. She has been inspired to continue practicing yoga for life.

Camel Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions


The easiest and safest of all the backbends, Camel Pose (also known as Ustrasana) will bump up your energy levels while also relieving stiff shoulder and back muscles. This pose is excellent for helping to prevent your back from hunching over.

Step by Step Pose Information Benefits Variations

Ustrasana

(Pronounced as "oosh-TRAHS-anna")

The Sanskrit word ushtra means "camel." This pose takes its name from the animal that has one of the longest, most-flexible arched necks in the world: the camel.

How to do Camel Pose

Step One

Kneel down onto the floor. Keep your knees, thighs and feet touching each other.

If you feel discomfort in your thighs in this position, then you can place your knees apart. However, keep your knees directly under your hips. If you have chronic knee pain, then you can also spread out a yoga blanket underneath your feet, shins and knees to cushion the joints.

Turn your thigh muscles slightly inward as you press both your shins and the tops of your feet down into the floor.

Step Two

Put the palms of your hands on the sides of your hips. Your fingers should point in front of you. Move your thumbs down so that they press into either side of your upper tailbone region. Now engage your thigh muscles, keep your tailbone tucked underneath your torso and inhale, lifting your chest straight up as high as you can. Suck your shoulder blades deep inside your chest as you roll your shoulders back to allow maximum expansion of the chest.

Step Three

After you've fully expanded your chest with a deep inhalation, then exhale as you push your tailbone in with your thumbs and arch yourself up, back and down. Rotate your shoulders out and reach back to touch your heels with your fingers. You can grab your heels with your hands if you have the flexibility.

If you cannot reach your heels, then place a chair on the floor behind you while kneeling so that it touches your buttocks. Then perform the same lifting, curling and leaning back movement while your arms hold onto the chair behind you. With every inhalation, lift up. With every exhalation, slide your fingers further down the legs of the chair until one day you can reach your heels. Do not push the chair back with your body weight; keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor.

Step Four

Press down onto your heels with your hands -- or grip the legs of your chair in a downward-moving direction -- as you let your head fall back. Keep your hips right above your knees. Maintain this alignment by using equal amounts of force in pushing your tailbone in and rolling your thighs in to slightly push back. Tighten your buttocks in and pull yourself up, around and back to lengthen your pelvis and your entire spine all the way up from your tailbone.

Do not force your head back. Keep your neck relaxed in a neutral position without tightening your throat or your face. Let your sternum continue lifting up toward the ceiling.

Step Five

Hold this posture for about half a minute to one minute. To come out of it, release your hands and put them back onto your hips as before. Let your thumbs continue supporting your tailbone as you inhale to slowly curl back up from your legs, belly, torso and then bring your head up last.

If you will be doing more backbends after this posture, then simply sit on your knees and rest for a few breaths before continuing.

If this is the last backbend of your practice today, then you can bend forward and rest in Child's Pose now while you take several deep breaths.

Beginner's Tip:

In the beginning, touching your feet with your hands may not be possible. Another way to start increasing your flexibility in the right way is by placing one yoga block on each side of your feet. Turn the blocks up so that they provide the maximum height above the ground. Then rest your hands on top of the blocks next to your ankles instead of your heels. Then you can follow all the rest of the steps the same way.

Camel Pose Information

Sanskrit Name:

Ushtrasana

Pose Level:

Level 1

Contraindications and Cautions:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Hypertension or abnormal blood pressure
  • Intense headaches
  • Recent, severe back or neck injuries
  • Menstruation
Please note: Women may practice Camel Pose right before menstruation to help relieve tension, but they should not practice it during their cycle.

Modifications and Props:

If you get chronic pain in your neck so that it becomes too difficult to let it hang back, then put a chair behind you. Stack several pillows or yoga blankets on the seat of the chair and adjust the position of the chair so that when you lean back, your head and neck rest on the soft support behind you. Adjust the chair. You may need to place the chair a few inches behind your buttocks while kneeling to get the pillows in the right position under your head. Then while resting here, focus on rolling your shoulders away from each other and expanding your chest as you keep breathing.

Deepen the Pose:

If you are comfortable putting your hands on your heels in Camel Pose, then try to lift your sternum more and curl back further to press the palms of your hands against the soles of your feet. Your fingers should point back behind you.

Therapeutic Applications:

  • Reduces respiratory troubles by increasing the capacity of your lungs
  • Relieves backaches by improving your posture
  • Removes fatigue through enhancing your circulation
  • Tones the muscles in your back

Camel Pose Benefits

  • All the muscles along the front of your body get a deep stretch, including the ankles, thighs and groin area.
  • It tones the deep hip-flexor muscles, also known as the psoas.
  • This pose provides extra circulation to your abdominal organs, thyroid glands and lymph nodes around the throat.

Camel Pose Variations

Partnering

Ask a partner to stand behind you while you go into Camel Pose. Now they should pull your neck from the base of your skull with one hand. Their other hand should simultaneously push in between your shoulder blades. These two counterbalancing actions will help to lengthen your neck so that you can drop your head back more.

Next Pose:

Cat Pose

9 styles | 152 poses

Beginner Yoga Poses

Bharadvaja's Twist Pose
Big Toe Pose
Boat Pose
Bound Angle Pose
Bow Pose
Bridge Pose
Camel Pose
Cat Pose
Chair Pose
Child's Pose
Cobra Pose
Corpse Pose
Cow Pose
Cow Face Pose
Crow Pose
Dolphin Plank Pose
Downward Dog Pose
Eagle Pose
Eight Angle Pose
Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose
Extended Puppy Pose
Extended Side Angle Pose
Firefly Pose
Fish Pose
Garland Pose
Half Frog Pose
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Half Moon Pose
Yoga Handstand
Happy Baby Pose
Head To Knee Pose
High Lunge Pose
Legs Up The Wall Pose
Locust Pose
Lotus Pose
Shoulder Pressing Pose
Low Lunge Pose
Monkey Pose
Mountain Pose
Noose Pose
Plank Pose
Plow Pose
Sage Koundinya I Pose
Sage Marichi's Pose
Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
Revolved Triangle Pose
Revolved Head to Knee Pose
Reclining Hero Pose
Scale Pose
Side Reclining Leg Lift Pose
Peacock Pose
Pyramid Pose
Crescent Lunge Pose
Heron Pose
Hero Pose
Feathered Peacock Pose
Staff Pose
Seated Forward Bend Pose
Four Limbed Staff Pose
Revolved Side Angle Pose
Wild Thing Pose
Side Crow Pose
Side Plank Pose
Sphinx Pose
Supported Headstand (Sirsasana)
Tree Pose
Standing Split
Supported Shoulderstand
Standing Half Forward Bend
Triangle Pose
Upward Plank Pose
Upward Facing Two Foot Staff Pose
Wheel Pose
Upward Salute Pose
Upward Facing Dog Pose
Warrior I Pose
Warrior II Pose
Warrior III Pose
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
Easy Pose
Gate Pose
Wide Legged Forward Fold
Dancer Pose
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose II
Marichi's Pose
Fire Log Pose
Standing Forward Bend
Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II

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