It's called Ustrasana in Sanskrit. It's a heart-opening pose, a backbend, touted to improve posture and stimulate abdominal and neck organs.
And I don't like it.
If doing Camel Pose is suppose to free the front body of compression, then perhaps admitting you don't like the posture is freeing as well. In fact, I feel better already admitting that it's just not my thing to reach back towards my heels and make my front line look like the hump of a large desert mammal.
It's not that I think the pose is particularly dangerous, or without benefit that I am not a fan. Camel just doesn't do it for my lower back. I have never finished teaching or practicing a series that included the full expression of that pose that made my back feel better as result. I can will my body into the shape, coax it to warm up to the idea of the pose by preparatory sequencing, but it always ends up the same. My lower back has that "crunchy" feeling that I tell all my students to avoid.
So, I began to wonder why I kept doing the pose? Why did I give my students permission to modify, but felt I had to keep seeing if I could -- just once -- do the pose without pain? I think it's partially because I feet responsible to demo the pose as a teacher, and partially because I feet I should be able to to the pose because I am a teacher. In either case, I choose to do the posture despite what my body says. I have heard it said in yoga classes that "your body is your greatest teacher. Listen to it."
Oh whoops, that was me. In my Camel Pose class.
So, I have to face the hard reality that I am trying to prove something that doesn't need to be proven, I am not honoring the wisdom of the way my body is uniquely designed, and I am allowing competition to creep onto my mat while ego cheers it on. Simply put, I am ignoring my greatest teacher.
I am reminded that yoga is a practice. I recall that I am also a student. And I try to remember that there are other backbends and heart openers I can do that don't make my lower back want to cry. I reflect on the freedom that I felt admitting that I don't like this pose, and realize that perhaps Ustrasana did have something to teach me about opening up after all.