Ushtrasana is a preparatory pose for Dhanurasana, The Bow Pose. Many people do not give the proper importance to the preparatory asanas, as they consider that as soon as they learned an advanced” asana they no longer need to practice the preparatory one.
However, despite their thinking, each asana is valuable and unique through its effects and this is the reason why we need to give it the proper attention.
In the case of a person whose spine does not stay in a healthy position, the thorax is most of the times crushed and thus the heart and the lungs are subject to unwanted pressure. As a consequence, the breath is superficial, the vitality is low and these will lead to the appearance of many diseases.
Ushtrasana, the Camel Pose straightens the shoulders and the back. The people who manage to keep their spine straight have a deeper breath and consequently a greater vitality. On the other hand, a curved back crushes the lungs and the thorax and makes impossible a normal breathing.
THE STARTING POSITION
Lie on your stomach, support on your left hand in order to push up the trunk and hold your right ankle with the right hand.
Stay still in this position for several breaths and relax the back musculature as much as possible. At the same time, with the eyes closed, imagine that your spine straightens. Visualize your body in its best shape, as being harmonious, supple and healthy.
THE FIRST STAGE
Raise your chin as high as possible; push the legs backwards, to create a stretching of the upper part of the back. Do not force your body. The muscles of the shanks are stretched gradually, just as the upper muscles of the back, and the vertebras come to their normal position.
During this first stage, relax the muscles of the back as much as you can, breathing slowly and deeply before moving on to the next phase. Note that the knees are spread, facilitating the pose.
Important: during this asana the knees, and the anterior part of the hips must stay on the floor. This aspect is very important for a correct Camel Pose. The first stage of the asana is easy. It does not require great mobility, or great effort, and it is accessible to almost anyone.
THE SECOND STAGE
This stage is different from the first mainly through the hand grasp: instead of holding the ankles, hold the upper part of the sole. Grasp the toes and keep the knees close to one another.
The pressure of the shanks on the back, powerful, but progressive makes the chest to lift. The arms are relaxed, and the thoracic breath is deep. Relax the upper part of the back and allow the pressure to inverse the dorsal arch.
The knees and the hips must stay on the floor. After a first breath, bring your bust up. While you exhale, hold your feet so that they do not go down. The next inhalation will bring your bust even higher.
Relax the musculature of the back and breathe deeply for five or six times.
THE FINAL POSE
Contract the muscles of the shanks, pull the shoulders back and create a pressure in between the shoulder blades, reverting the dorsal arch. This position is the first stage of the Bow, Dhanurasana.
HOW LONG TO DO IT
This asana should be done for as long as possible, but without having any pains. Breathe deeply and calmly. Relax the thorax and perceive it growing bigger, especially while inhaling. As the pelvis is on the floor, the diaphragm pushes the internal organs, and the air goes into the upper part of the thorax.
In other words, during inhalation the thorax grows especially in its upper part. Come back lying on the floor, and then do the asana again after several minutes, and see that it is much easier this time.
Perceive the flow of the energies coming through the trunk, arms, and then legs. Perceive the intense activation of the solar plexus, enhanced will, calm, self-confidence. Perceive the activation of the subtle center of force Manipura chakra.
Ushtrasana has all the benefits of Dhanurasana. Regarding the abdominal pressure, they are fainter than in the case of the Bow Pose.
Nonetheless, the great advantage of the Camel Pose is the special relaxation of the lumbar vertebras. This asana is highly useful for people who have lumbar problems, as for those people whose hips have lost their mobility.