counterpose and camel pose

I love seeing what searches bring you here! Two of the searches yesterday really made me think:

“counter pose to warrior III” &

“why does camel pose in yoga store emotion”.

I have been looking for what others think about camel pose – or ustrasana – and emotion for a while (see my blog on “camel terror”). I haven’t found a lot of guidance, but here’s what I’ve decided: Ustrasana doesn’t store emotion, rather it releases emotion, particularly emotions we’re storing in our bellies and hearts. The third and fourth, and even the fifth chakras’ physical seats are opened and activated in ustrasana, as well as the front channel, or meridian, of the body. Anything we’ve squirrelled away there is stirred up when we lean back and expose those areas of our bodies the way we do in camel pose.

For me, I feel my third chakra, the solar plexis, most riled up by leaning back into this pose. I physically feel emotion at that location and then it spreads up and to a lesser extent down. I think that, like camels who store water, we store emotion along the body parts stretched in camel, and this position is a really juicy way to let go of what we don’t need.

The counter pose question is really good. A counter pose is a pose that’s meant to balance the effects of a preceeding pose, like fish for shoulderstand, or back for forward bends (or visa versa). Now, Vira III – or Warrior III – is a one sided balance pose, so by one way of looking at it, the opposite side is the counter pose.  Counter poses are usually used to neutralize effects on the spinal column, and in Vira III the Spine is long and neutrally aligned, so there is no need to neutralize.  I was unable to find any listed counterposes in the sources I consulted.

So, that’s all for this session of “ask the yoga instructor” :) I love looking through the searches, but also feel free to email me with your questions or yoga concerns:

yogaguides (at) gmail (dot) com 

Yoga ON!!!

5 comments
  1. amria said:

    thank you.
    it makes sense to me

  2. Patrick said:

    I’ve also have an intense experience in camel pose, I really love it. If I could just to add to what you’ve already said, I’ve come across an idea from outside of the yoga literature which I find relates to this question in a fascinating way. In the final chapter in the book, Study of Man, Rudolf Steiner describes the esoteric experience of the ‘limb man’. Try to imagine that our arms and legs are not growing out of our torsos but rather stuck into their joint sockets from the outside world, and are themselves only the visible tips of our true limbs which ray out into infinity and so are connected with the entire cosmos. Ok, so let’s further imagine that our physical arms and legs are like the upper and lower jaws of a giant invisible head! And when we raise our arms, it’s like the top teeth chomping down on our upper chest, and when push our legs back, it’s like the lower jaw chomping up on our pelvis. The experience is that we are constantly being consumed by this spiritual head whose jaws are our own limbs. And when we do a deep backbend, we are also thrusting our hearts forward to be devoured. At this, we can feel fear or anxiety at first, but in time we develop the mood of devoted sacrifice.

    This is kind of an esoteric imagination that I’ve just found interesting to play with. I know it sounds pretty strange. Just take it or leave it as you like.

  3. nicki said:

    Hey. I’ve stumbled here through googling camel and emotion. I’d say 75% of the time I react badly to camel. Sometimes I get upset and end up self-consciously brushing tears away. Today I felt angry (I really wanted to indulge in a toddlers tantrum but managed to bottle it all up and just come home!)
    I know it’s normal to get emotional in this pose, but sometimes I wonder if I’m just weird. .. I don’t notice anyone else freaking out and this part of the class!
    It’s also not just camel (though inevitably this gives the strongest reaction) but a couple of others, such as bow that set me off.
    So as I said, from what I’ve heard it’s normal to get emotional after camel, but I don’t seem to see it…. how “normal” is it? (or how emotional is normal?)

  4. Hi Nikki! What a great question or really area of inquiry. It’s hard to know why others around you don’t display emotion. It just may not be their day! For myself and my students, I’ve noticed that any given person may not have a notable reaction for weeks or months, and then will have an observable experience every practice for weeks. I hope your teacher is helping you with the ‘normal’ part, because honestly ‘normal’ one day, for one person in a certain circumstance may be different than the next day or person.

    If you feel like you have big emotions that you prefer to have surface privately, I would encourage you to first of all not see these as ‘bad’ reactions, because they’re the opposite. This is what your yoga is supposed to be doing for you: surfacing deeply buried habits of reaction and thought so you can acknowledge and let them be or go. Do you have a home practice? That would be the best thing I could think of going forward. Don’t push yourself in this home practice, because just having Camel in your home practice will be challenging and you want to stay vibrantly present for whatever happens. Have a journal nearby – or cut-open grocery bags with markers or crayons for drawing – or whatever helps you when you feel like expressing yourself. Have a pillow and a blanket for comfort, and pour yourself a warm bubble bath so you can go directly from savasana to deep comfort. Light candles, have tea ready. You get the idea.

    Then structure a short – half hour or less – class so that you warm up, practice breath awareness and then gently open your shoulders and your hips before setting up the easiest variation of camel you know. Stay for 5 breaths, come out & just let what happens happen. Ready for a little more? Engage a slightly deeper variation, maybe going from hands on buttocks to joined behind you. Just keep playing til you find your edge. Then a few balancing forward bends, a final spinal twist and at least 5 minutes in savasana. Remember crying is a form of pranayama! And remember that anything that comes up *was already there* and it’s freeing to allow it to show itself and not stay buried. You’ve got this, there’s nothing to fear.

    You can also practice bridge instead as it’s a similar conformation of the body but a different relation to gravity and may be a great sub or way to ease in.

    Thanks for reading and sharing your experience! You are feeling important things that only you can give voice to! Namaste _/l\_ Christine

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