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Essential Sequence: Learn to Love Camel Pose

Camel Pose Sequence

WHY THIS SEQUENCE WORKS

Students who love Ustrasana praise the pose for the way it opens the shoulders, chest and upper-back. And, they’re right. Ustrasana is hard to beat when it comes to extending the thoracic spine. Students who loathe Ustrasana invariably complain about discomfort in the neck and lower back. They’re also right. It can be tough to do Ustrasana without creating excessive compression in your lower back and neck.

As teachers, we know two things about how our students experience Ustrasana. Some students love the pose because it’s working for them; and, some students don’t love the pose because it’s not working for them. For me, this becomes a puzzle to solve when I’m sequencing a class. My goals are clear: I want to create a sequence that helps students maximize the benefits of Ustrasana while minimizing the challenges of the posture.

To do this, the sequence below emphasizes a flow of postures that methodologically prepares your entire front body for Ustrasana. When the front body—especially the hip flexors, quadriceps, abdominals, pectorals and anterior deltoids—are adequately prepared, it’s more likely that your students will be able to open their shoulders and chest without crunching their lower back and neck.

Here’s a really quick break down of my favorite mini-practice for Ustrasana.

POSES 1-3

The first 3 postures allow you to settle into your body. Mild twisting is a nice preparation for backbends. The following posture flow is going to focus almost exclusively on lengthening the front body in preparation for backbends, so it’s nice to the sequence with a little complementary work.

POSES 4-6

I really love this combination of poses and I use it in a lot of my sequences. It’s definitely a staple in my own practice. In each of these postures your shoulder is in extension and one hip is in extension. This simultaneously lengthens the front of your shoulders, chest, hip-flexors and quads. The top arm is in the same chest-opening position as Ustrasana. These postures also introduce mild spinal extension. This mild backbending segues perfectly into the next combination of postures.

POSES 7-12

This is a straightforward progression of backbends that goes from less demanding to more demanding. One of the reasons that I chose these postures is that they all extend the shoulder joint, except for Cobra Pose. This shoulder extension will help open the front of the shoulders and chest in preparation for Ustrasana.

POSE 13

Lucky number 13—Ustrasana! This is still a tough posture for most students, but here are 3 quick tips for working with the posture. 1) Engage the bottom of your Gluteus Maximus. Yes, engage them. 2) Externally rotate your arms so that your biceps and elbow creases are turning away from each other. This will help lift your chest in the pose. 3) If the pose is still uncomfortable in your neck, tuck your chin and look toward your chest. If the pose is uncomfortable in your lower back, place your hands on the back of your pelvis. Use your thumbs to lengthen the back of your pelvis downward. Take your time and do what you need to do in order to befriend the pose.

POSES 14-15

The word “perfect” is nauseatingly overused. But, I’m going to add to the problem and write that Supta Padangusthasana is the “perfect” follow-up to Ustrasana and other backbends. Unlike Happy Baby Pose, which flexes the spine, Supta Padangusthasana allows you to maintain the natural curves of the spine. This is a mild transition for your back after all the extension you created in your backbends. It also allows you a few moments to feel (and possibly savor) the afterglow of your backbends. Viparita Karani is your just desserts.

Want to practice this sequence at home? When you sign up for our newsletter, we’ll send you a free printer-friendly PDF of the sequence above!

AND, if you want to feel more confident and knowledgeable about your sequencing skills, check out my e-course, The Art of Yoga Sequencing. It’s great for yoga teachers and students who want to better understand how the body works and how to stretch and strengthen effectively.

{illustration by MCKIBILLO}



9 Comments

  1. Thank you for another great sequence.
    Is there an easy way of finding past sequences I just keep clicking through old ones till I find one I haven’t seen for a while. ie is there a list of them all.
    The poscasts do they have to be listened to on itunes

    1. Hey Jackie,

      We’re going to roll out an easier way to find all the sequences….. sometime…. It’s on our agenda, but we’ve got a few other things to implement first. The podcasts can be listened to directly on our site. Just go to the podcast page!

  2. Hi
    i dont seem to be getting the pdf option for saving this sequence. If I right click I can save the image but it only saves it as a jpeg which is ok as I can still print it off but I wonder why I cant get the pdf option?
    thanks ,annette

    1. Hi Anette — If you click on the ‘sign up for our newsletter’ link and enter your email, it will get sent right to your inbox. You will also be signed up for our newsletter, which I typically send every two weeks. Even if you are already subscribed, you have to re-enter your email so it knows where to send the PDF. Does that help? Andrea

      1. Hi, I really love your guys site and sequences.
        I’ve been following Jason for years and I love your content!
        I’ve done that for The Ustrasana Sequence but it keeps sending me the 30 minute morning sequence.
        Keep making beautiful yoga content.

        1. Hello! Sorry about that. Sometimes leadpages acts wonky. I am going to send it to your personal acct. Best, Andrea

      2. Hi Andrea
        ive been subscribed to the newsletter for ages but didnt realise I had to keep clicking on the sign up bit !
        thanks , annette

  3. Hi! Which kind of breath do you recommend during camel pose? I understand that during our practice our breath should be even, deep and steady, but in some yoga practices I’ve seen that they do kapalabhati while practicing camel pose, wheel pose and even shoulderstand! This is counter-intuitive to me and it doesn’t feel organic at all…I’ve tried to ask those teachers and share my doubts about this, but they say that this “enhances” the effect of the poses, without actually explaining why. It simple doesn’t make any sense to me. I’ve been doing some research myself but I have not found any article regarding that matter so I thought on asking your opinion. Thank you!

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