Open Your Heart (& Strengthen Your Spine) With This Juicy Backbend

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Open Your Heart (& Strengthen Your Spine) With This Juicy Backbend

If you're looking for a deep backbend that can help strengthen your spine and open your heart, look no further than camel pose. This dynamic stretch not only works the spine but the hips, as well—which is great if you sit a lot during the day. Just in time for Valentine's Day, here's how to do heart-opening camel pose properly so you can get all the benefits.

How to do camel pose, ustrasana:

  1. Begin in a kneeling position, keeping knees about hips-width distance apart. You can either tuck your toes under to create more stability and a softer bend or keep the tops of your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Bring your palms to your sacrum on an inhale. Then, exhale to press the palms into the glutes, pushing your hips forward and lifting up through your chest.
  3. As you begin to bend back, lengthen through the throat. You can drop the head if it's comfortable; however, you can also engage your neck muscles slightly if dropping the head is too much.
  4. From there, reach for your heels with the hands, energetically squeezing the shoulder blades together. Keep reaching the chest up and hips forward. Your hips should be directly stacked over your knees.
  5. Hold for 3 to 5 deep breaths, then return your palms to your sacrum to slowly press yourself back up.
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Tips and modifications:

  • If the full backbend isn't within reach for you, stay in Step 3 (a slight backbend) and focus on reaching the chest up and hips forward.
  • To make sure your hips are in alignment, you can practice camel facing a wall. Start with your hips and knees grazing the wall, and as you bend back, keep pressing your hips forward to maintain contact.
  • Avoid camel if you've had any recent shoulder or back injuries.

What are the benefits?

As with any backbend, camel is excellent for opening up the front of your body—which makes for some great heart opening! And of course, your spine is sure to get a good workout here, too.

On top of that, camel can help you feel energized, alleviating fatigue and even mild stress and anxiety. And if you spend a lot of time sitting down (which requires flexing the hip joint), extending your hips in camel is sure to offer you some relief.

There are plenty of great reasons to throw camel pose into the mix during your next yoga sesh, and with Valentine's Day right around the corner, a heart-opening pose is a perfect fit.

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