camels yoga

How do Camels Breath?

I’ve never seen a camel. I’d like too. I’d also like to breath more. You know, breath in, breath out. But mostly, I’m too busy to do that. I know you know what I’m talking about.

Cindy, my yoga teacher, teaches me a pose called Camel pose or Ustrasana.  It’s a funky, little back bend. When I was a kid, I watched TV from the position of a back bend on the living room floor. It was easy. I popped right up, wrists turned backward, feet pushing me higher into the bend, and my chest rising. It felt so good. I could stay there forever.

It was so easy to breath after doing that. I don’t do that anymore. Now, I watch TV lying in bed.

Fortunately, Camel Pose does not require this complete back bend stance. Instead, I am on my knees, with my legs extended behind me, hands reaching for my ankles, neck dropping toward my feet, my spine coiled into my back, my chest open wide. The total time Cindy allows for this pose is thirty seconds. Thirty seconds, then come out of the pose (carefully) and then thirty seconds again. It is enough.

camel pose breath

Cindy Dollar doing camel pose with props. Thank the Lord, yoga lets you use props. This picture is from her website, no photographer is noted.

Cindy gives you reminders when you’re in the pose. She instructs that while your body is bent backward and your arms are trembling with the weight, to press your legs into the floor, and press your hands into your heels, then lift your sternum higher. There is a reason for this. The action between my legs and my arms creates a stronghold, a structure which supports me in the pose. Once supported, I am free to lift my sternum, coil my spine, and the reason for all this contortion: Open my chest, and you guessed it, breath.

Here’s what I discover in this pretty awkward position. I’ve got to breath to stay here.

My breath comes rapidly at first. I’m afraid my arms will give out before my timer does and I’ll be in a heap. So, I breath. The breathing stabilizes me. It slows down the panic and allows me to concentrate, to press my hands into my ankles, press my legs down and be strong again. For thirty seconds.

I have another friend, also named Cindy. She works in the medical field. She doesn’t advise smoking, but she does advise doing what smokers do. “Smokers,” she says, “take breaks to breath.”

Camel Pose is a breathing pose. That’s what I accomplished today, breathing. And, here’s why that is important: I’ve got to breath if I’m going to stay here. I mean that literally, but also, not. Life is a haul, and pacing myself requires breathing.