Learning Yoga: Camel Pose

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Here in New York City, it’s a beautiful day to grab your yoga mat or a blanket and head to the park. Unfortunately I have to finish up some homework for an online media class I’m taking, so I can’t go enjoy the sunshine. Instead, I’ll do the next best thing and share some photos of last weekend, when I actually did go out to Central Park with my friend Beyza to practice yoga on the Great Lawn. One of the poses we tried out that day was Ustrasana, or “camel pose.”

The first step is to kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width apart, shins and the tops of your feet pressed against the floor. Put your hands on your hips or on the tops of your buttocks, and arch your back. Take your time with this and don’t bend back too far all at once. It’s hard, but try to keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor and your groin tucked in.

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The next step is to gently reach back and touch the heels of your feet, first with one hand and then the other. “Beginners probably won’t be able to drop straight back into this pose, touching the hands to the feet simultaneously while keeping the thighs perpendicular to the floor,” according to Yoga Journal’s website. “If you need to, tilt the thighs back a little from the perpendicular and minimally twist to one side to get one hand on the same-side foot. Then press your thighs back to perpendicular, turn your torso back to neutral, and touch the second hand to its foot.” This is a great stretch for your entire body, especially your hips and your back.

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 Yoga Journal suggests turning your toes under to raise your heels if you can’t quite reach your feet (you can see that I am only barely making it in the picture below!), but I like the feeling of my feet and shins pressed firmly against the ground. Once you’re in position, you can either keep your neck neutral or lean your head back.Just make sure not to strain too hard. I’ve learned that one of the most important parts of yoga is listening to your body–that means knowing when to push yourself and when to take it slow. I’m still learning to correct my form and focus on multiple parts of my body at once, but if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that it takes practice to succeed at just about everything, and yoga is no different. At least practicing yoga is always a lot of fun!

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