Yoga Milestone – Full Camel (I Did It! I Did It!)

Bikram’s series of yoga postures are set up so that anyone can do them. It’s actually called “Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class”. A common misconception is that Bikram is somehow an advanced form of yoga, but the postures can all be adapted so that they are less or more challenging, depending on your practice. The class dialogue only covers the expression of the 26 postures required for maximum benefit. However, it’s possible to go even deeper in some of those postures, one of them being Camel Pose (Ustrasana).

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The dialogue given in class for Camel Pose ends with you grabbing your heels and pushing your hips and chest forward. You can go deeper into this posture by bringing your hands up over your head and reaching for your toes, letting your head rest between your feet.

I first saw full camel a few years ago at a regional competition for the International Yoga Asana Championship. The competition requires athletes to perform five pre-determined postures and two of their choosing. Those chosen postures turned out to be the ones I enjoyed watching most, because I got to see samplings from Bikram’s fabled “advanced” class, where you perform 84 postures instead of just 26. (TheDancingJ did a great write-up about her experience at Bikram’s advanced class.) I saw camel performed to its full expression by several of the competitors, and I fell in love. I wanted to try it.

So of course, I got right on giving it a go, right? Well, not really. I did work on extending my gaze further down the back wall until I could see my mat and towel underneath me. But I was nervous about actually trying full camel without warning my teacher first. I wanted to make sure I knew how to perform the posture, and it never hurts to hear confirmation that you’re ready.

Naturally, I always forgot to mention it until we were already in the room and in camel pose.

UNTIL TODAY! I marched into the studio and informed the teacher that I felt ready to try full camel, and she said okay.

I found out that full camel is actually a lot of fun! It sort of feels like going on a roller coaster that flips you upside down. Before doing the posture, I tried to visualize what it might look like to be hanging backwards, upside down, and staring at my feet, and my brain couldn’t handle it. It’s like it split my imagination into two panels, one with my left foot and one with my right foot. So it felt pretty trippy to actually SEE my feet there under me, and walk my fingers toward them.

I didn’t get my face between my feet today. To be honest, I kind of forgot that’s what I should be doing because I was too busy thinking, “HOLY CRAP! I’M ALL FLIPPED OVER! OH MAN!” But once I started focusing a little more on making actual adjustments, I could feel where I should aim, and I know I can get there eventually.

I don’t know if I’m going to try full camel every class, but I’m REALLY excited I tried it today, after dreaming about it for so long. At least now I know it’s an option!

My mom requested a picture of it, so here’s me trying it outside of class. Not recommended. I got into it as slowly as possible and held it only until Green snapped the picture, then I did some forward bends to compensate. This is a posture that I’m keeping to the hot room from now on!

And just for reference, here’s an video of what it looks like to go deeeeeeeeeep into this posture:

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