Even while in my 40s I did not find pleasure in the camel (ustrasana) back bend.
My barriers to camel pose were probably a combo of physical readiness, fear, and vulnerability.
I had regularly been extending my back in the bridge pose.
In that shape, I incrementally felt my chest opening more and more over time. This spaciousness helped me breathe better as well. Furthermore as an asthma sufferer, my chest opening practices and the calm created by yoga, helped my particular asthma symptoms. Camel, is essentially bridge with knees, shins and feet as the base. Just look at Norm in bridge and myself in camel. Same pose, yet a very different somatic experience.
The alternative relationship camel has to gravity can make it a more challenging pose for many people.
It certainly did for me, and I didn’t trust my spine to hold me up while in extension.
I hadn’t connected proprioceptively to lengthening my neck. At one point my dear friend Loretta stood behind me gently spotting my shoulders to encourage me into the pose. Yes, like an exercise in trust. However, I still could only go so far without mental and physical limitations taking over, even with her hands waiting for me.
Eventually it became, and still remains, a shape I absolutely love. It symbolizes overcoming barriers, strengthens my spine, and always encourages me to breathe deeper. My regular yoga practice, keeping my feet in dorsiflexion at first, and other less strenuous backbends, brought me here. The journey to camel teaches patience as well.
The Moral of the Camel Story
The truth is, I have deleted a few asanas due to some injuries over the years. They were glorious but…100% NOT essential; nope not essential at all to peeling away the layers with yoga, and harnessing all koshas.
This imperfect “pose” today still provides me with uplift and empowerment as I enter my third act. And if at some point my intuition and body tells me it is time to give it up: so. what.
Dear Reader: I’d love to see you in my classes. I have a motto: it’s YOUR yoga. There are so many ways to practice. Let me be your guide on the side! My current schedule is here.