In celebration of LOVE month (as lame as this is), I am breaking down one of the best heart openers, Ustrasana. It is a super strong posture, energising, empowering and quite beautiful shape. To me, it represents courage. Courage to lead with the heart, to let go of holding on and just trust that you are supported by the Universe. It can be quite intense and especially if you have been through a tough time emotionally, Ustrasana might not be available to you immediately.
Not so much physically, but because of the powerful effect it has psychologically and the surrendering it requires in order to get into it. If you feel that you are at a vulnerable place, I’d suggest starting with very gentle backbends and use the breath to help you through rising emotions. If you do wish to go into Ustrasana, stay with the first variation and only go as far as feels safe and comfortable to you.
Ustrasana is a particularly important posture in learning to keep the lower back steady. The bend is not in the lumbar spine, but in your middle/upper back where your thoracic spine is. I like to think of sending my heart out and up towards the sky, rather than bending backwards.
How to get into Ustrasana::
Make sure you have warmed your body up before going into the pose and ensure you only practice postures that are safe for your body.
- Start by kneeling on your mat. Roll your mat 2-3 times or add padding using a folded blanket to protect your knees.
- Have the feet tucked under for the first variation, keeping the knees underneath the hips and feet parallel. The posture should feel steady.
- Bring the heel of your palm on your pelvis having the fingertips pointing down. Your hands should be below the lower back, not on it.
- Soften the shoulders and draw the elbows together.
- Press the knees down as you draw the hip points energetically together to active the abdominal muscles.
- Keep lengthening the lower back as you begin to encourage the chest to open up towards the sky.
- Keep the hips over your knees and your arms active.
- If comfortable you can turn to look upwards.
- Keep using your breath as you gradually broaden the collar bone.
- Focus on sending the space between your shoulderblades up towards the sky
If you wish to take it further, you can reach back with your arms to catch your heels.
- Do not look back and try to avoid rotating the spine while you are in the backbend.
- Once you grab hold of both heels, press down with the arms to help your chest come forward and up, but keeping your hips and lower back stable.
- Keep working your tailbone down towards the heels, breathing steadily and calmly.
- Shoulders should be soft and relaxed, but the arms are in external rotation helping the backbend.
- If it feels nice and you have no neck issues, you can release the head back.
- To take it even deeper you can have the tops of the feet flat.
To come out, press into the legs and in one go come forward with the hips so your torso is upright over the knees. Bring your hips down and sit kneeling for a few breaths before you come down to Balasana (child’s pose) to rest.
Caution: Do not practice if you have knee, back or neck injury, high/low blood pressure or migraine.
Opens and stretches the front of the body, including thighs, groins, abdomen, chest and throat.
Stretches the deep psoas muscle.
Strengthens the back muscles and improves posture.
Energising and anxiety relief.
Believed to help ease menstrual cramps.
Why I love it::
Deep heart opener – strengthens the belief in yourself, in your own strength.
Connects me to my core (as I need it to work to hold me up!).
Deep sense of surrender and letting go.
Stimulates the Anahata Chakra (heart chakra).
++ How about you? What’s your favourite backbend? How do you find practicing Ustrasana? Leave me a comment below and let me know if you have any questions about this posture.
Much love xx