In this post: Camel pose is a common cause of back injuries for people with tight hips or spines. Here’s the smart way to modify Camel pose and avoid injury.
In the years that I’ve been taking yoga, I’ve only developed strong negative feelings for a handful of poses. Camel pose, also known as Ustrasana, is one of those poses.
Back when I first started taking yoga, back when I didn’t know enough about proper form and alignment, back when I thought the teacher was supposed to pretend you weren’t there so she could enjoy her practice better, I moved too deeply into Camel pose in class and hurt myself. And, when I say that I moved too deeply, I mean that I tried to keep my hips stacked over my knees and place my hands on blocks just slightly behind me, set on the highest level.
This modification is about as basic as you can get in this pose, but it threw my back out and left me in pain. After a month of recovery, I decided yoga just wasn’t for me. I left my practice entirely for around ten years.
Thankfully, my faith was restored in yoga when I met my mentor and she introduced me to a world of yogis determined to help relieve people of their pain. In a recent post on his website, yogi Jason Crandell wrote about Camel pose, why he hated it, and a more modern philosophy about how to practice this pose to receive its heart-opening benefit without hurting yourself.
I didn’t even know this was a possibility!
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The New Way to Practice Camel Pose
Basically, he likened the Camel pose to an upright version of Bridge pose. If, when you practice Bridge pose, your hips don’t lift as high as your knees, you shouldn’t worry about aligning your hips and knees in Camel pose. Instead, just focus on opening your chest and spine.
This is a huge philosophical shift for a pose that was previously defined by its knee to hip placement. By ignoring this alignment, people with tight hips and spines are better able to practice this pose and avoid injury.
So, here’s more information about how all the cool kids (or at least all the cool kids with tight hips and/or spines) modify Camel pose and avoid injury.
How to Modify Camel Pose
If you have tight hips and/or a tight spine, make sure to have some blocks nearby.
- Use ujjayi breathing throughout.
- Get up on your knees. Make sure your knees are in line with your SITs bones. If you have blocks, place them on the highest level on either side of your ankles. Then, return to an upright position.
- Remember, as you move, your goal is to open your heart toward the ceiling. When you do this, your low back and your neck will also be part of the curve, but they shouldn’t be the only parts of your spine moving.
- Start with your hands on your hips.
- Press into the floor with your knees and the tops on your feet. Feel how energy rises through your body and helps you lift.
- Allow the rib cage to lift up and away from the hips.
- Draw the belly button to the spine.
- Rotate your heart toward the ceiling. Make sure to keep the space between the ribs and hips.
- Broaden your collarbones, and allow one hand at a time to reach for your block.
- If this does not feel challenging (perhaps you do not have tight hips or a rigid spine), you can lower your blocks or place your hands on the heels of your feet.
- Hold and breathe for a few breaths. As you do, think about allowing your spine to lengthen on the inhale and soften on the exhale.
- To come out of this pose: bring your chin toward your chest, place your hands on your hips, recruit your abdominals, and lift back to an upright position.
How to Modify Camel Pose Video
Here is a video for visual learners.
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Well? Did you try it? What do you think of this modification? Let us know in the comments below.