Usht means camel in Sanskrit, hence why this posture is also known as Camel Pose. In life we tend to bend forwards more than backwards. When we counter the forward movements by bending backwards, we can help to rectify abnormalities in the spine.
Most Yoga postures have counter poses, which simply means, once you bend forwards, you need to counter the posture by bending backwards. Counter poses stretch the spine in the opposite direction to the previous stretch, and brings the spine back to center.
Ushtrasan involves the neck, the middle of the spine and the waist making them more flexible and stronger. The spine is lengthened and fully stretched during this posture. Lung capacity is also increased along with our ability to hold the breath longer.
The upper and lower parts of the body are involved in this posture. The inner and upper thighs are stretched and strengthened. There can be a strong pull felt in the upper thighs throughout this stretch, and this will determine how far back you will be able to go.
Ushtrasan is also credited with assisting irregularities of the menstrual cycle, strengthening the heart muscles and regulating the breath. Spinal conditions such as slipped disc and spondylites are also helped by practicing this asana.
Sit on the floor on your bent knees. (Vajarasan)
Keep the knees in line with the shoulders.
Come up so you are standing on your knees.
Keep your upper body straight and strong.
Keep your breath natural.
Your feet should be equal distance apart with the soles turned up.
Bring both hands to the waist with the thumbs touching behind the back.
As you breathe in, lift the spine up from the waist, and start to bend back from the neck, lifting the chest, while pushing the navel forward.
Feel the chest open and the spine stretch as you bend. Feel the pull through the whole upper torso.
Take your hands from the waist and try to get them to rest face down on the soles of your feet. This will intensify the stretch on the upper thighs too. Go as far as you can comfortably.
If you cannot reach the feet, just go as far as you can and keep the hands on the waist.
When in full posture, try to hold it for a minute or longer while breathing slowly and naturally.
When ready, remove the hands from the feet one at a time and start to slowly come up to original position.
Come back on to the knees and counter the pose with the Child Pose for a few minutes.
It is important to do this asana slowly and with purpose. Ending with Child Pose can help to counter any giddiness that may occur and also bring the spine back to neutral. Always go to your own capacity, and before you know it your ability to stretch will increase.