Yoga Tip: Camel – To reach back or not to reach back? …is the question?


How often have placed your hands on your hips in preparation for camel & heard these words careening from somewhere in the depths of your mind? Well, if you have done Bikram HotCore Yoga with any regularity, chances are real good you’ve pondered this question. For long-term health and unfoldment in the practice of yoga, it is absolutely necessary to recognize that the human body is ever-changing … some days the hips/lower back may permit a fully cranked Camel … while other days the most appropriate way to honor the body may be to keep the hands on the hips & look back. Anyone who thinks that every day their body is going to be ever-opening probably has not done a lot of yoga. There are days when even the fittest yogi gets humbled. Please note that prudence requires listening to the body …  rather than blindly plowing deeply into a posture simply because you did it that way yesterday … even if you’ve done it that way every day for the last year. A wise yoga teacher once said, “There are two things can trip up a yogi: ego & ambition.” So here are Peter’s guidelines regarding the stages of camel. Each time you attend class, I suggest that you explore with an open mind which statement of Camel will work for you on that day.

Stage 1 Camel: Keep your hands on your hips. Press hips/thighs forward. Lift your chin & gaze back. Close mouth to stretch from knees to the chin. Squeeze shoulder blades together. Press your shins/instep into the mat. Use the friction generated by pressing the butt of your palms into the ridge of your back hip to lift chest/heart/solar plexus. Anyone whose hips collapse when they reach back for their heels should practice Stage 1 Camel. With regular practice the body will eventually open into Stage 2.

Stage 2 Camel:  Hands touch the heels.  Okay, you’re ready to reach back. Great! Depending on your flexibility, you may press your fingertips and inside heel into each other. Or grab the heels. Otherwise same as above. You may not only look back but look down to the carpet. The important thing is to feel a continual lift along the spine, chest, & throat while grounding in your grip, knees, shins and feet.

Stage 3 Camel: Human Catapult – Pull on the heels. The full statement of camel involves harnessing your physical strength to lengthen your spine, open and flush energy channels, create powerful tourniquet effect along entire spine and internal organs. Once you’ve experienced this Human Catapult, you’re not likely to forget it. It may be akin to experiencing sexual union for the first time. It is intense & it is profound. Please remember that just because you are able to go for the full-Monty of Stage 3 Camel one day, doesn’t mean that it will serve your body/yoga practice to push yourself every day. Here it is (only to be done in HOT room after appropriate warm up of previous postures): Grab & pull on the heels … but don’t let go … hold onto the heels with all your hand strength & pull … hips move forward powerfully … chest/heart/solar plexus lift bigtime … throat feels incredible expansion … brains gets amazing circulation. You will feel that if you let go of the heels, you will smack your forehead into the mirror at the front of the room.

For Everyone: Always…always…always remember to simply turn around, extend your legs & torso, & take Savasana after Camel. The biggest mistake beginners make after doing Camel is reaching for the water or the hand towel or gazing in a stupor around the room. You must understand that camel is the climax of the yoga sequence. The quicker you turn around and take Savasana (which means relax fully and breathe), the more completely your body/mind/soul can harvest the medical/emotional/spiritual benefits from your practice. Why do such a vigorous practice & pass on the benefits? If you need water, drink it before you do the posture (not afterwards). Who cares about sweat? Would you concern yourself with sweat immediately after making love? Probably not. ENJOY the BUZZ of CAMEL by taking SAVASANA.

Benefits (as reported by thousands of Bikram students):
– Stimulate nervous system, parathyroid, thyroid.
– Relieves backaches & corrects kyphoscolitic deformities/cervical spondylosis.
– Relieves bronchitis and bronchial spasms.
– Improves immune system by stretching thymus.
– Lowers high blood pressure/strengthens the heart.
– Delivers fresh blood to kidneys.
– Eliminates toxins.
– Improves mental clarity/memory.
– Helps cures vertigo/dizziness.
– Excellent for osteoporosis by improving bone metabolism.
– Excellent for diabetes, constipation, flatulence, fermentive dyspepsia.
– Helps cure/prevent hernia.
– Helps cure anorexia.
– Creates supple strong spine (core strength).
– Firms up abdomen/waistline.

With all these benefits, you can see why Bikram places so much emphasis on Camel. Let me know how your Camel evolves.