I never knew my body could crave a camel. The yoga posture, that is. I've never met a real one, but I wouldn't expect to crave them either. Although I just learned at the Field Museum in Chicago that their humps are filled with fat so if there's no food for two weeks, they'll hang tight. Life's tough in the desert, but humps help!
The camel in yoga basically stretches your body into a heart-exposed slingshot and a series of sensations tend to take place: anxiety, anger, fear, nausea, loss of control, and the occasional surge of elation. I've yet to feel that one. You start out standing on your knees shoulder width apart, your feet behind you about six inches apart. Place your hands on your lower back (or butt) and slowly stretch your upper body up, then back. Find the floor with your eyes and stay there for a bit. If this feels okay, then grip the outside of your ankles with your hands and pull your body forward, like a slingshot. Fight urges to retreat, crawl into a ball, or run into the lobby for air conditioned therapy. Oh yeah-- all this is done in a 100 degree room, populated with sweating bodies and a gym sock smell.
My yoga instructor treats the camel as the posture mecca of the 90 minute series. "All the postures lead to this one," she often says, "Just let your body feel whatever it's feeling. It's temporary, remember." She reminds us that in everyday life, we slump, we cross our arms, we literally shield our heart. This pose does everything to leave this precious part of us vulnerable, exposed, free, causing the slew of emotion to pass through. I like to think of it as an emotional (and physical) oil change. Soon, we've exited the camel and fall into a child's pose. Gravity presses on us as we tremble towards breath and familiarity.
Days later, I'll drive down the road or sit at my desk, stiff and solid, and feel my body's whispers for a Pigeon, an Eagle, or a Rabbit. But it's when I find myself steps into a new frontier: reading my poetry at an open-mic, tackling a new responsibility at work, or making a tough phone call, I think of the camel.
I let fear wash through like a flash storm, give the twists in my stomach time to undo, and pry my heart open against its own impulse to hide. Thank you, Camel. You make me want to cry, but thank you.
xxx Corrie Lynn
PS. This is not me.