Ushtrasana. Awareness and Duration

Maintain awareness of breathing and relaxation of the whole body.

It is difficult to stay in the final pose for more than a few minutes. Aim at eventually maintaining the asana for up to two minutes. Initially, hold the final pose for no more than a few seconds, increasing the duration by a few seconds daily.

Sequence

This is a backward bending asana. As such it should follow or precede any of the asanas which bend the spine forwards.

Limitations

Persons with severe back ailments such as lumbago should not attempt this asana without expert guidance. Those who suffer from an enlarged thyroid should also take care.

Mistakes to avoid

Often people allow the weight of the body to be supported on the arms and heels in the final pose. Although this does not cause any harm, it greatly reduces the efficiency of the asana.

Another common error is to tense the back muscles, which prevents maximum flexion of the spine. Try to relax the muscles as much as you are able.

Do not breathe too deeply in the final position – the chest and abdomen are already stretched, which imposes restraint on breathing. Any attempt to breathe deeply could easily strain associated muscles.

Benefits

This asana applies a wonderful stretch to the whole chest and abdomen, at the same time imparting a thorough massage to the internal organs. As a result, it is useful for alleviating various abdominal ailments associated with the kidneys, pancreas, intestines, liver, etc.

Shallow breathing is often caused by inflexibility of the ribcage. Ushtrasana expands the ribcage and the associated muscles are made more supple. As a result deeper breathing is facilitated.

The spine is given a wonderful backward bend, loosening up the vertebrae and stimula-ting the spinal nerves. The shoulders are pulled backwards while the chest is pushed forwards, helping to correct rounded shoulders and a stooping back.

The front of the neck is fully stretched, applying a good massage to the nerves and organs in this region. In particular, the all important thyroid gland is regulated.

Those people who suffer from backache, neckache or general stiffness in the spine will gain relief through regular practice of this asana.

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