This is an excerpt from the book Spiritual Yoga – Awakening to Higher Awareness by Gynadev McCord of the Ananda Yoga® tradition. Shared with permission by @Hansa Trust.
We are excited to welcome Nayaswami Gyandev for the 27th Anniversary of the SOYA Annual Retreat in Sorrento, BC this June 3-5, 2022. Pick up your copy of the book at the retreat or order online here.
Ustrasana – Camel Pose
Relax, yet also lengthen, into a progressively deeper backward bend. Lift through the front of the torso throughout Ustransana; sagging backward is unsafe for your spine as well as less beneficial on the levels of energy and consciousness. Lift and open especially in the heart region – as a flower lifts and opens to the sun – affirming.
“With calm faith, I open to Thy light.”
Kneel on the floor (on a cushion, if needed for knee comfort), with knees and feet hip-width apart, toes pointing down and elbows shoulder-width apart behind you.
Keep your lower body stationary as you inhale into a backward bend; lift your heart up and back to guide the process. Then exhale and relax into that position without sagging backward. Press forward and down with your hands to keep your upper legs vertical and to prevent your lumbar spine from bending backward too far.
On succeeding breaths, continue lifting “up and over the top” into the backward bend until you can place your hands on your heels. Use your inhalations to create length, support, and openness throughout the body, especially in the spine. Use your exhalations to relax – with stability, and without sagging – into your current position.
Continue to lift as you hold the pose; rest only minimal weight on your hands. Keep your neck in the same backward curve as the rest of your spine; don’t let your head hang back. If your neck tires; bring your chin toward your chest. Stay as open as possible in the back of your chest; even though your shoulder blades will be squeezed together a bit.
Breathe smoothly and naturally, mentally affirming, “With calm faith, I open to Thy light.”
To exit, bring your chin toward your chest; then inhale as you stretch, then inhale as you stretch one hand forward and up to pull yourself upright; exhale as you sit back on your heels.
Pause in Vajrasana (Firm Pose) or Balasana (Child Pose).
- Ardha Ustrasana (Half Camel Pose); As above, bring your right hand to the right heel but reach up and back with the left arm. Face your torso as forward as possible; try not to twist. After you exit, pause in Vajrasana or Balasana; then repeat on the other side.
- Easier: Keep the heels of your palms on the back rim of the pelvis throughout the asana; pressing forward and down with your hands.
Images in the blog are of SOYA founder Mugs McConnell, taken at Bowen Island, BC.
Co-Director of the Ananda Meditation® Teacher Training, Director of Ananda Yoga®, Level 2 Ananda Yoga teacher, E-RYT 500, Raja Yoga Teacher, Spiritual Travel Host, Writer and Lecturer, Ananda Minister
Nayaswami Gyandev McCord is a longtime disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, and a Kriyacharya (teacher of Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga meditation technique) with Ananda Sangha. He lives and teaches at Ananda Village in Northern California as well as online—primarily training yoga teachers and meditation teachers. He is a co-founder of Yoga Alliance and author of several books, including Spiritual Yoga: Awakening to Higher Awareness, as well as more than 50 yoga videos.