Comfortable Drowning: Moving Through Camel Pose.

Photo by Maryjoy Caballero on Unsplash

For me, there is one yoga pose that is both terrifying and helpful, dangerous and life-affirming, scary yet detoxifying: Camel.

The first time I did Camel Pose, also known as Ustrasana, I was extremely unhealthy. I was in graduate school and working half-time, and I was not eating well. I would go days without sleeping. I was eating fast food constantly, and I was not exercising.

I was taking hot yoga to try to counter some of the damage I knew I was doing to myself.

Camel Pose shocked me. The first time I did it, I felt:

  • Like I was drowning and could not breathe…my nose felt immediately stuffed up.
  • Extreme sorrow in my chest like my heart was broken.

  • Fear of being attacked.

Camel Pose leaves you in a vulnerable position, which is what I didn’t like. I barely opened my chest at all that first time, but all of my anxiety, fear, and sorrow came through my chest and heart.

Eventually, I learned how to breathe through the pose.

Camel always filled me with fear, and it’s still difficult for me to be that open and vulnerable.

Here is how I work through it:

  • Form over how it looks. I hardly ever go for my ankles and I just “enjoy” the back bend.
  • I focus on engaging my core and opening my chest over going “backward.”
  • If I’m going to do it twice, I do not push myself the first time.
  • If I feel overwhelmed, I refrain from doing it more than once, even if the instructor tells me to.
  • I practice a little bit at home and imagine I’m “rehearsing” a panic attack…not having a real one, just preparing for when one happens.

Moving through the pose helps me feel and respond to my anxiety without being overwhelmed by it. What fears are coming up? Is it money? Insecurity about something else? A memory, a flashback?

For me, Camel Pose surfaces a lot of my PTSD and anxiety symptoms.

I feel a little more awake after I do it, and a little sore in the chest. I’m more likely to remember things that hurt me, and I usually feel a little more awake.

Camel Pose is like practicing drowning. It’s like rehearsing getting bad news. It’s like experimenting with breaking your own heart, and seeing that you would still heal and move on.

Camel Pose has a lot of difficult lessons to teach me. And gradually, I learn.

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Writing mostly to myself. Sharing some of it with you. Hope it helps.