Getting ready to hit the slopes, or just back from a long day of whizzing down the runs and beginning to "feel it" in your thighs? Great news - Ustrasana, or Camel pose, is a deep back bend that stretches and strengthens your ankles, thighs, belly, chest, spine, shoulders, and neck. Try it before you sweep the slopes as a warm-up, or apres-ski as a relief for sore muscles. Below you'll find the steps for getting into this invigorating, de-stressing pose!
Find your way into a standing kneel with your knees hip-width apart. Make sure that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor, and that your ankles are in line with your knees. Draw your breath up tall through your torso, and press your shins and the tops of your feet into the mat for stability.
Rest your hands flat against the back of your pelvis with your fingers pointing down. Use your hands to support and lengthen the back pelvis as you stretch up through the front of your body. Pressing your tailbone forward in line with your knees, begin to open your face and heart up towards the ceiling. Remember to take deep, calming breaths. For some, this will be as far as you need to go. Enjoy the feelings of stretching and expanding through your front body! Hold here only as long as it feels comfortable if it's your first time. Eventually you may be able to build up to thirty seconds, or even a minute.
For a fuller expression of Camel pose, continue opening up your heart, bringing your head closer to your feet by lengthening your spine against the support of your tail bone and shoulder blades. You may be able to lower your hands to rest lightly against your heels. Try not to push too far forwards or compress too much backwards - think of keeping space in the bend with your thighs perpendicular. Stay and enjoy the rush of this pose for anywhere from thirty seconds to a minute.
To exit, support your back pelvis with your hands as you lift and strengthen back up through your torso, leading with your heart first. Relax into a wide, seated kneel with your body folded forwards and arms stretched out ahead of you on the mat ("Child's pose") for a few breaths afterward. You may notice that Camel pose will stir up bits of stagnant energy or tension in your system. Breathe through the "carbonated" feeling and use it to energize your ski runs, or as a final release before you hit the ski lodge for a hot cup of cocoa!
Do you enjoy snowboarding as well? Check out our yoga for snowboarding post and add a brand-new yoga pose to your snow sporting arsenal!