I have some minor grievances with associating the month of February with the theme of Love, mainly because I think that restricting displays of love and romance to each other to one arbitrary day in February is sad. We need MORE love, all of the time. You can never have too much true love, because essentially it is the recognition of the common element that connects us all (including our plant and animal friends). Some call it God, some call it the Soul, I call it Love. That force that cannot be categorised, agreed upon or truly understood, but that lends colour and meaning to our lives nonetheless.
In recognition and celebration of Love, I have chosen Ustrasana/Camel Pose as this month’s pose of the month.
When we inhabit the full expression of Ustrasana, we are required to ‘drop back’ in to the invisible space behind us as we reach backwards for our ankles. As a result of this movement backwards in to space, our heart center (anahata chakra) and chest become open and exposed.
A broad chest and open heart is a sign of courage and confidence, it can feel quite exposing, as the heart center is where we store out vulnerability, and it can take students a while to feel confident enough to relax into the pose without feeling afraid.
To me ustrasana symbolises the qualities necessary to cultivate in order to love and be loved: vulnerability, openness and the willingness to step in to the unknown and trust in the process.
Modified pose tutorial.
- Warm up with several round of sun salutations, spending at least 5 breaths in cobra or up-dog in each round.
- Come to kneeling with the knees hip width apart and the toes tucked under.
- Draw the lower belly in and up, and the tailbone towards the knees.
- Place the hands on the sacrum (lower back) with the fingertips pointing down.
- Inhale and feel the chest broaden and the shoulder blades draw together and down the back.
- Begin to lean the weight backwards into the toes (while continuing to root down through the knees). Back of the neck stays long, and the backbend is in the mid back, rather than the lower back. (Imagine lifting up and out of the chest). Feel the hips moving forwards in space.
- Hold for several full breaths, becoming accustomed to the sensations that arise in the body.
- To come out, tuck the chin towards the chest and use the core muscles to bring you upright.
Full pose tutorial
- Complete steps 1-3 from above, but have the toes un-tucked- tops of the feet on the mat.
- Reach your right hand down to the right ankle.
- Rotate your chest to face the sky, and then reach your left hand for your left ankle.
- If it is appropriate for the neck, you can slowly drop the head back and allow it to be supported by the shoulders.
- Breath deeply in to the heart center for several breaths. You may feel feeling of fear and perhaps slight panic, this is normal, and if you can take deep, slow breaths and relax in to the pose, those feelings will subside.
- To come out, tuck the chin in to the chest, release the hold on the left ankle, steady yourself, and then release the right ankle too and bring yourself slowly upright.
- Rest in balasanachild’s pose.
By Jasmine Pradhan from stretchandthecity.co.uk
Jasmine teaches Hatha yoga (sometimes dynamic, sometimes slower) with an open heart and an open mind. She believes that every individual already has the tools they need to achieve true happiness and wellbeing, and that sometimes they just need a little help discovering them. She truly believes that a dedicated yoga practice can be the key to that toolbox, and aims to facilitate that discovery for her students.
Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor before starting any new physical activity. Always practice under the supervision of a qualified teacher.