Ustrasana is a heart-opening backbend that also opens across the fronts of the legs and hip flexors.
To arrive in this pose, start by kneeling with the hips stacked over the knees. The tops of the feet can be flat to the ground or toes tucked under for an easier reach to the ankles. Take your hands to the lower back with fingers facing either up or down (whichever is more comfortable). Tuck the tail under and hug the inner thighs in before taking a deep breath in to lift the chest while pressing down through the knees.
You may keep the hands on the lower back or you can reach one hand down to clasp the heel of the same foot, then the other hand down to the heel. Maybe then you can lift your gaze up.
Keep lifting through the chest as you take 3-5 steady breaths in and out through the nose. Release from the pose slowly, taking one hand at a time back to your lower back and gently draw the hips and chest forward to the kneeling position. Try not to throw your head forward as you release, rather, gently draw the chin toward the chest.
- Focus on lifting up through the chest as you hold this pose.
- Keep hugging the inner thighs together to keep the femurs and pelvis in a neutral position, which will help prevent over-compression of the lumbar spine and sacrum.
- Try not to throw the head back. Only lift the gaze if the shoulders are open enough to invite the gaze to go up.