The 'airy' anatomy of Camel Pose
Usually Camel Pose (Ustrasana) is a go-to for any conversation about the heart. It's kind of the pack leader of "heart openers", which would in turn point to the signs of Leo (rules the organ of the heart, and the spine) and Cancer (rules the lungs). However... today I was having a great time pairing the air element to find support in the pose. Here's the breakdown:
Aquarius - rules the ankles and forelegs Libra- rules the adrenals Gemini- rules the collarbones, arms and hands
My intention in the pose was to get out of my damn head and into my heart without falling asleep or turning into a mushy mess (much easier said than done BTW, especially if you are mostly air and fire comme moi.) I figured that Camel pose would be a good pose to start in since it's energizing, but also requires a strong and grounded base. Here's the path I took:
Aquarius- Aquarius rules the forelegs and bones of the forelegs (tibia and fibula) and your ankle joint (the "ankle bone" or the bone held between the distal ends of the tibia and fibula is called your talus). A common problem in Camel Pose is a lack of active awareness in the legs and a feeling that the pose starts in the spine. Just like any of your standing poses its important to maintain awareness of the downward moving force in your body to support the upward/lifting force.
Stand on your knees and feel the pathway of weight from your pelvis through your thighs, into your knees, and from your knees through into your shins, through your ankles, into your feet and beyond. Notice how your forelegs relate to the floor and play with activating them by pressing straight down and/or feeling the "energy" of your legs continue past your toes.
Libra- Feel where your adrenals are (they rest on top of your kidneys, which are about the height of your lower ribs, to either side of your spine). This is the area of the body that often acts as a kind of 'hinge' and that is often thrust forward to lifts one's chest up. This type of hinge movement isn't the same as getting your spine, in its integrity, to support a lifted chest. Using the hinge of your ribs against the spine usually creates an overly bent/compressed lower back which, since it takes the majority of the available curve, then limits the opening in the actual thoracic/heart area.
As you stand on your knees and feel the (Aquarian) support of your forelegs and ankles energetically lengthening towards your toes, combine that with a release of your adrenals downwards towards your sacrum. This sensation is a broadness and lengthening in the lumbar region and a simultaneous tone in the front wall of the abdomen in response (a very different feeling from gripping your abs.)
Gemini- Gemini rules the arms and collarbones. Your arms "connect" to your body via your collarbones (which in turn connect to your breastbone, which connects to your ribs, which connect to your spine.) The shoulder blades rest on the back of your upper ribs but aren't attached to them by bone, instead, the muscular and ligamentous attachments of the shoulder blades to the ribs (the scapulothoracic "joint") can slide across the surface of the back ribs either towards one another or away from one another. The shoulder blades act as another type of 'hinge' area where it's possible to squeeze them towards one another which will effectively spread the front of the chest. While this might look good in the front, it also creates a tension in the throat and neck (not good for camels), constricts the pulmonary artery, and can exacerbate the tendency towards the previous pattern of hyperextending the lumbar spine.
Rather than squeezing your shoulder blades together, feel the skeletal path of your breast bone (in front of your heart) connect out width-wise through your collarbones, into your shoulder joints and through the length of your arms. Imagine the volume and spaciousness inside your chest/heart area floating upwards and expanding within the chest, allow your front body to rest back over that expansion, and energetically reach from your manubrium (top of the breast bone) through your collarbones and all the way into the tips of your fingers (think wing span.)
Putting it all together:
Stand on your forelegs with your knees hips width apart. Feel your pelvis stable and balanced between front, back and either side. From your pelvis reach through the bones of your legs to your knees, from your knees reach through the bones of your legs to your ankles, from your ankles reach through the bones of your feet to your toes and beyond.
Feel your midsection stable and balanced above your pelvis, from your kidney/adrenal area broaden and lengthen along either side of your spine towards your sacrum. Feel your sacrum as the back of your pelvis, energetically hook up the downward "flow" of movement from your midsection through your legs.
From inside the chest area feel the amount of space and breath that is available, feel how the skeletal ribs and spine literally hold space for your breath. Feel how your lungs surround your heart. Imagine your heart cushioned on all sides by your breath. Start to initiate a reach from your breastbone through your collarbones and into the length of your arms as you reach back for your heels or other support.
- Keep breathing and feeling the fullness of your inhalations
- Notice the balance of the downward moving flow from your backbody and legs, and the upward moving flow from your front body
- To support your neck keep a balanced upper rib area, continue to find/feel broadness around the circumference of your rib area all the way up under your collar. Allow your throat and cervical spine to follow the openness of your upper ribs rather than crank back away from them.